Hot, Fat, and Hungry

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August 2, 2005
Hot, Fat, and Hungry

by Keith Weiland

It’s official. I love the 2005 class of rookies.

I know that these draft picks have yet to play even a down of football in a preseason game, but hear me out. Through the first couple practices of training camp, they have the look of the most battle-ready group top to bottom that the Texans have selected to date.

It starts at the top. First round pick Travis Johnson saw the practice field in front of the fans for the first time Monday night, but it was the morning practice that had the buzz flying early. After Johnson kept a hand in the facemask of Tim Brown, an undrafted rookie offensive lineman, just a bit longer than Brown would have preferred, a shoving match ensued until both were rolling around on the turf.

"We’re hot," Johnson said afterward. "We fat and hungry, you know? That’s about it."

No Travis, that’s about awesome. Welcome aboard, mate.

Johnson worked behind Corey Sears at left defensive end during the evening workout, and he spent a good portion of the evening showing why the Texans liked him so much in the first round last April. Matched up most frequently with right guard Fred Weary, Johnson showed that he could do it all. He shed Weary’s block in no time flat during 9-on-7 work, then put a quick move to Weary’s inside shoulder during one-on-one drills to beat him to the marker. Johnson later pulled off a swim move to complete the trifecta against a worn out Weary.

The Humbler Wide receiver Jerome Mathis was at it again during the evening workout, this time humbling cornerback Demarcus Faggins. Mathis beat Petey up the left sideline as Faggins bit on the inside fake, perhaps reading a little too much into where quarterback David Carr might be going with the football during 7-on-7 work.

Mathis has already shown he is a lot more than just a fast runner (which, by the way, he is officially super-duper fast). He has some nice strong hands to go with that speed, and his route-running already looks a little cleaner than it did on Saturday. Big questions still exist for Mathis though, ones that have plagued his prototype, Corey Bradford. Can he consistently beat the press coverage and make it through an entire season without getting bogged down by it?

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I’m betting he breaks the mold, but I can’t wait to find out myself. Get this man on the field early and often. (Special note from The Advance Scout to his new favorite player: I don’t want to sound too much like the "Stage Five Clinger" from Wedding Crashers, but we’re going to be soooo happy together! Don’t leave me ’cause I’d find you!)

Heavy Pett-ing Okay, my rookie slobberfest continues. Outside linebacker Kenneth Pettway, a seventh round pick, is another young player that has been impressive in the early going. After playing some defensive end for Grambling, Pettway appears to be having little trouble making the transition to a two-point stance for the Texans.

Pettway has some natural pass rush ability, and during the 11-on-11 scrimmage that ended the evening practive, he showed off his nose for the football, too. Reading the play before it happened, Pettway jumped fullback Jarrod Baxter’s route and nearly picked off a pass from Dave Ragone.

Pettway is back in the pack on the depth chart, but after starters Jason Babin and Antwan Peek, followed by top reserve Charlie Anderson, Pettway is making a strong case to be the fourth outside linebacker on the final roster. To do so, he’ll need to show his skills in future workouts as a special teams player, just as Peek and Anderson did in their rookie seasons.

238 Days That’s how much older third round pick Vernand Morency is than Domanick Davis, the man atop the team’s depth chart at running back. With the way he’s been going in practice though, Morency appears willing to make up for lost time.

A slick runner, Morency steps high through the hole, has a good forward lean and even better balance. In just one play from scrimmage Monday night, he bounced a run back to the left side, beat Anderson on the containment, then stiff-armed safety Jason Simmons for extra yardage.

There is absolutely no question that Domanick Davis is still the show, but the Texans need Morency to play like his shadow to keep him fresh.

Good Guess, Bad Guess New acquisition Victor Riley saw most of the time with the first team at left tackle Monday night. Riley, who played right tackle nearly all of his NFL career up to this point, was a bully on running plays, but he was guessing on where to go when pass blocking. Sometimes he guessed right and looked the part. There were a couple times though when he guessed oh so wrong.

During one-on-one work, Charlie Anderson cut hard to his inside when Riley was thinking outside. Riley was caught way out of position, and with his slow footwork, he had no hope of even laying a finger on Anderson. Later in the team scrimmage, linebacker Antwan Peek put a wicked spin move on Riley and caught him flat-footed.

Wand fans, don’t give up just yet. This battle is far from over.

The Blitz Jonathan Wells spent quite a bit more time at fullback Monday night, and while Moran Norris is a swell blocker, Wells has a far greater ability to expand a gameplan when he is on the field. He took handoffs and caught passes from his new position all night. Not to say backup fullback Jarrod Baxter is ready to give up the fight as Norris’ backup though. He laid a great key block on linebacker Kailee Wong during 9-on-7 work to break his running back into the open field… Some nice defensive efforts of the night: undrafted rookie corner Chris McKenzie jumped in front of an underthrown pass from Dave Ragone and nearly grabbed an interception. Strong safety Ramon Walker, who is listed behind rookie C.C. Brown on the depth chart, got his hands around a Tony Banks pass during 7-on-7 drills. Cornerback Phillip Buchanon later intercepted a David Carr pass intended for Sloan Thomas. Undrafted rookie Jerron Wishom also missed a good opportunity to intercept a pass from Ragone.

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