Pendergast: Texans Scrimmage At NRG Stadium Two Weeks Ahead Of Season-Opener Against Chiefs

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By SportsRadio 610

HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610) -- The Houston Texans finished up the portion of training camp that was open to the media — 10 media members total, 10 practices total — with a scrimmage inside NRG Stadium on Thursday night.

It was a scrimmage that hung precariously in the balance over the previous 24 hours, for both weather and societal reasons. As it turned out, Hurricane Laura shifted to the east overnight and the Texan players opted against making the scrimmage part of a social justice statement (like nine other NFL teams did by canceling practice on Thursday), and they moved ahead with the practice game, as planned.

Yes, you read that right — a scrimmage was nearly cancelled over two different possible circumstances and NEITHER of them was related to the coronavirus. 2020, y'all!

So now, with four practices to go, Bill O'Brien will soon need to identify his 53-man roster for Week 1 in Kansas City.

For now, here are my thoughts on Thursday's scrimmage inside the stadium:

1. I'll start the post with what happened at the very end, after the scrimmage had ended. Once the coaches and staff all left the field to go to the locker room, the Texans players stayed at midfield, gathered around all on one knee, while Kenny Stills conducted a very passionate speech, presumably about racial inequality (full disclosure, we couldn't hear from the stands, but Stills is one of the faces of social justice in the NFL).

That was followed by J.J. Watt addressing the team for several minutes, before our time was up, as media, and we were required to leave. Watt was still going when we left.

O'Brien said after the game that they had discussions all day inside the building about how best to invoke action in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting, so we will see where it goes from here.

But for those wondering, it was absolutely a front burner issue inside the walls of NRG Stadium on Thursday.

2. As for the scrummage itself, the big thing O'Brien wanted to do was simulate a game day, and that doesn't just mean the game itself, but also the pregame walk through, warmups, and player introductions. Hell, they even played Clay Walker after 24-yard field goals.

IT FELT REAL TO ME, DAMMIT!

As for the format, the first string offense and second string offense took turns going against the second string defense and first string defense, respectively.

3. As you can imagine, Deshaun Watson moved the ball up and down the field with relative ease against the Texans backups.

A couple times, things bogged down in the red zone, and Ka'imi Fairbairn came out to kick field goals, but Watson also led a couple touchdown drives.

One was an absolute gorgeous throw from about 20 yards out to Kenny Stills in the back left corner of the end zone (he smoked Gareon Conley on the play), and the other a Watson zone read inside the 10-yard line.

4. Skill players with gold stars next to their names -- Duke Johnson, looked explosive in the running and passing game; David Johnson, continued to look very smooth catching the ball out of the backfield; Will Fuller, made a spectacular diving catch along the sideline in the first half (didn't play in the second half, as they continue to ramp him up gradually for the regular season); DeAndre Carter, several sneaky slot catches in the middle of the field, he is having a nice camp.

5. Skill players with red arrows pointing down next to their names -- Jordan Thomas, a brutal drop on third down that had him livid at himself; Kahale Warring, followed his great practice on Tuesday up with a dud for this scrimmage, including a third down play where he looked for the ball over the wrong shoulder on a fade pass from Watson; Chad Hansen, my "camp crush" got his shoulder injured by an overzealous Lonnie Johnson, who tackled Hansen in a scrimmage that was supposed to involve no tackling.

6. On Wednesday, Anthony Weaver was asked to name three players who have had great camps so far, and the first name he came up with was linebacker Jacob Martin.

This scrimmage made Weaver look like a very smart man, as Martin was continually in the backfield all evening long, and scored a touchdown on a scoop and score off an A.J. McCarron fumbled snap.

7. Speaking of McCarron, if the Texans are going to have to win a game at some point without Deshaun Watson, I am fearful it may not happen with McCarron, who has been fairly abysmal throughout camp, holding onto the ball way too long, and just throwing the ball very inconsistently.

Worth noting, Cody Kessler (former Brown, Eagle, Jag, and I'm sure I'm missing a team or two) was in for a tryout this week.

8. Rookie watch -- Ross Blacklock, definitely part of the rotation on the defensive line; Jonathan Greenard, injured and did not appear; John Reid, got some time with the first string at slot corner and returned punts, good night for him; Charlie Heck, didn't see much time; Isaiah Coulter, injured and did not appear.

If you're looking for an undrafted rookie who is getting mentioned by O'Brien, keep an eye on tight end Dylan Stapleton. I don't think he makes the 53-man roster, but I could see them keeping him on the practice squad.

9. The scrimmage ended with A.J. Moore, getting some quality time with the first unit at safety, making a spectacular one-handed grab on an interception thrown by McCarron (I'm telling you, McCarron has been BAD this camp.).

I think Moore, largely viewed as a special teamer since coming over to the Texans a couple years ago, is sewing up the third safety spot.

Stay tuned to SportsRadio 610 all day Friday and throughout the rest of training camp, as we take you up to the season opener in Kansas City on Sept. 10!