Training Camp Diary

July 29, 2002
Training Camp Diary
by Keith Weiland

I’m taking a break from my usual coverage of top college prospects because I’ve spent the last week scouting professional prospects, namely the Houston Texans, who completed their first week of training camp under my watchful eye. Below is a blow-by-blow report of what I saw during the four pratices I attended.some pictures I snapped.

July 22, 2002
Rookie offensive lienmen Chester Pitts and Fred Weary each worked with the first team in Monday’s evening practice. It was the first of eight Texans practices open to the public. After a morning practice where Pitts reportedly was anxious and jumped offsides three times, he showed improvement and even pancaked another lineman.

Another rookie, WR Jabar Gaffney, looked impressive running patterns and developing a rhythm with QB David Carr. The play of the day though belonged to TE Billy Miller. He pulled down a ball in traffic and is showing that he can be a reliable outlet for the rookie quarterback.

Now, onto the diary…

6:55pm – Punters Chad Stanley, Aron Langley, and John Baker kick. Not pretty. For a team focused on special teams, their punters appear unimpressive. And for a team with a less-than-sunny outlook on offense this fall, this makes me nervous.

7:13pm – Team participates in light running and stretching. This includes injured players Tony Boselli and Gary Walker, though they are not in pads.

7:20pm – Each QB works with separate groups, primarily working on footwork. David Carr and Ben Sankey work with the running backs and Mike Quinn and Kent Graham work with the tight ends and receivers.

7:22pm – Toro the mascot sits next to me. Get the hell away!! Aren’t there little kids you should be menacing or something?

7:30pm – Position drills. Palmer sticks with his QBs. Graham, already demoted to third string, throws passes that lack zip and are off target, either too long or behind receivers’ backs. Carr looks sharp, throws darts. Quinn tosses a nice deep ball to Jermaine Lewis and hits his mark on a pass to Sherrod Gideon. Ben Sankey, fourth string, throws nice tight spirals, but he’s not always accurate.

7:38pm – Offense and defense work on running plays. The first team offensive line looks like this: Chester Pitts at left tackle, DeMingo Graham at left guard, Steve McKinney at center, Fred Weary at right guard and Ryan Young at right tackle. Jeremy McKinney would periodically sub for Graham. James Allen and Jonathan Wells both look good running with the ball. Michael Jenkins gets a few reps and looks like Mini-Me next to Wells. Jenkins looks like a cannonball out there.

The second unit gets work next, and the O-line now looks like this: Jimmy Herndon at LT, DeMingo Graham at LG, Ryan Schau at C, Chad Overhauser at RG and Max Lane at RT. It should be noted that backup OL Calvin Collins was not in pads for this practice. On defense, LB Keith Mitchell and Kailee Wong play on opposite sides. Wong usually on the left near the line of scrimmage. Jamie Sharper works at both inside linebacker positions. Travis Prentice fumbles a hand-off exchange from Quinn.

7:51pm – Offense walks through plays against a scout team on the near field. After reportedly running 3-WR sets in the morning, the Texans use a more traditional I-formation. The walk-throughs end on a trick play, a reverse flea flicker of sorts.

7:59pm – Special teams work on punts/punt returns. Curiously, WR Avion Black is not among the group returning punts. First to return a punt is Lewis, who at one point makes a dazzling move in traffic and breaks free. Second is Trevor Insley, followed by Gideon and Jabar Gaffney. The punters look a little better as a group this time around.

On the far field, Palmer is working with the QBs on an accuracy drill. Large colored dots are hanging twenty or thirty yards downfield, and I believe Palmer is telling them to throw at a color. Carr’s arm motion is definitely higher, more like how it was at the start of the 2001 season. Sankey’s balls are almost as hard as Carr’s, but he’s overthrowing the dots. Quinn has been consistent in his throws all practice.

8:06pm – Finally, the first team offense works against the first team defense. O-line is Pitts, D Graham, S McKinney, Weary, and Young. Rod Rutledge works at TE, Snider at H-back/fullback, and Allen and Carr round out the backfield. The wide receivers work in pairs: Corey Bradford and Lewis, Black and Gaffney, Trevor Insley and Gideon. Tony Simmons seems to be slipping on the depth chart. On defensive line, Jerry DeLoach is at DT, while Seth Payne is at right DE and Jabari Issa is at left DE.

Prentice is slow moving to the outside. Sharper looks a little rusty in pass coverage, but he’s quick to read and fill gaps on running plays. On one play, the QB faked a handoff to a RB, then hands off to Black who started the play in motion. TE Billy Miller makes a nice catch. He’s got good hands. David Carr rolls to his right on a couple plays, makes a bad read and tosses an interception on a pass with little arc.

8:21pm – The coaches pull out the ladders to act as D-linemen as the real lineman make their way to the far field. There is a giant play clock that starts running now, but everyone seems to be ignoring it. Palmer continues to stick around Carr and coaches him after every play he makes.

Wow! Gaffney just made a nice move on CB Aaron Glenn. And Glenn looks pissed at himself. Carr later hits Gaffney again in stride, giving hints that this could be a nice combo. TE Jake Moreland, who made a nice catch earlier in practice, runs a bad route and hears it from coaches. Kent Graham hooks up with TE Billy Miller for the nicest catch of the practice. Bradford and Insley both make nice catches. Carr looks accurate on his throws.

8:35pm – The linemen return. The same first team group of Pitts-D Graham-S McKinney-Weary-Young play. Pitts and Weary are getting a ton of reps. At one point, Pitts de-cleats DE Devon Finn and puts him in the turf. J. McKinney is the only lineman subbing in, and he keeps coming in for Graham.

Wells and Allen both continue to look good. Jenkins has a little trouble holding onto the ball. Carr hurries too quickly through his reads, opting to tuck and run with the ball on several occasions. He’ll learn. He just needs time. It’s obvious he’s the one with the most talent on the field.

8:54pm – Stretching and cool down.

8:57pm – Team huddles around Capers.

9:00pm – Practice ends, but a few position coaches keep players for an extra couple minutes for some final words.

All in all, some guys looked a little rusty, but it was a far better practice than I expected an expansion team to have at this point. Though the Texans are allowed to have their 97 players on the roster, hopefully they’ll do a good job of getting the right guys enough reps as the position teams were four and sometimes five units deep. By the amount of time Pitts and Weary had though, I’d say that Capers is keeping this in mind, too.

July 24, 2002
Offensive Coordinator Chris Palmer will not be a fan of the Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust offense this fall. With speedsters like Jermaine Lewis and Corey Bradford, who can blame him? The plays the Texans ran at their second public training camp practice were not run out of the I-formation, which was often the case on Monday. Three- and four-WR sets were the norm on Wednesday, and fans should expect to see a lot of motion.

The catch of the day belonged to Jermaine Lewis, as he’s showing that he belongs on the field for more than just returns. The surprise of the day was in how much Jeff Posey was getting work at ROLB with the first team.

Now, onto the diary…

6:50pm – Thunder is heard in the distance. I get nervous… I’m standing atop metal bleachers without an umbrella, but more to the point, if the weather gets nasty, the team heads for the bubble and fans head home. Not to worry though, as the rain clouds never get close.

6:51pm – Most of the players have made it to the practice field and are doing light stretching on their own. Corey Bradford is catching ten-yard passes from Ben Sankey. Rashod Kent walks onto the field without pads on. He’s going to have quite an uphill battle making the first cut unless he plays.

6:55pm – Field goal practice tonight! James Tuthill kicks first with P Aron Langley holding. The attempts are of the 44-yd variety. Tuthill’s first try is good. Second try… DOINK! Right post reached out and knocked it down. As expected, TE Sean McDermott is doing the long snapping. Kris Brown kicks after another Tuthill make. Brown looks like a toe kicker. The ball spins bottom over top. Tuthill kicks again, nailing his fourth attempt. And number five… DOINK! Damn left post. Before wrapping up, the unit practices their fake kicks, the first couple where the holder throws to the TE, but on the last one, the pass goes to OL Chris Lorenti.

7:09pm – Time for a couple 40-yard jogs, then everyone stretches.

7:19pm – Offense stays on the near field and defense walks to the far field. Some slow walk-throughs of plays, then the positions split up. The LBs work on ball-stripping drills, and the DBs practice fumble recoveries. The WRs and RBs perform an odd tumbling leap frog drill.

The QBs then work on throwing a variety of passes to the receivers, including some jump balls, deep balls and out patterns. Mike Quinn is still the #2 QB, and he looks like he’s throwing harder than he was on Monday. He looks good throwing slant patterns. WRs Atnaf Harris and Eric Chew each drop catchable balls. Sankey overthrows Gaffney; then later, Kent Graham throws Gaffney the sickest-looking duck pass of the night. Carr is very accurate, which he will be all night, burying a pass this time into Dwaune Jones.

The tight ends work separately on blocking against the linebackers. I keep a close eye on Billy Miller, as this is a need area for him to get more playing time. He locks up well with Kailee Wong on one round, but is not as impressive later on. He needs more lower body strength. LB Greg Jones puts a hurtin’ on Joey Knapp, and then Jones again looks strong on Kaseem Sinceno. Keith Mitchell would later handle Sinceno on two consecutive attempts.

7:39pm – The first team offense and defense work on executing and defending running plays. The starters on offense are the same as on Monday, as the OL consists of Chester Pitts – DeMingo Graham – Steve McKinney – Fred Weary – Ryan Young. The backfield is made up of Carr – Matt Snider – James Allen. Jeremy McKinney subbed for Graham. The LBs on defense catch my attention. Wong is at LOLB, Jay Foreman and Jamie Sharper are at ILB, but Jeff Posey is at ROLB. Wha?? Keith Mitchell does eventually make it in later, and he showed great speed to get into the backfield to wrap up Jonathan Wells before Wells hits the hole.

Michael Jenkins hauls cannonball ass to the outside on one play. He’s looking much better today. RB Delvon Flowers is not looking good at all. He’s slow-footed and pensive. He may not make it past the first cuts.

Pitts is still looking pretty good from my vantage point. He has some good feet. Mr. Irrelevant, DL Ahmad Miller, isn’t so good when he jumps offsides before one play. Fellow rookie DL Howard Green is inconsistent, getting blown off the line at one point.

7:50pm – Offense and defense split up, this time to play against scout teams. Very slow, tempo drags here. On the defensive side, they walk-through a bunch of dime packages, including a corner blitz with CB Marcus Coleman rushing the passer. On offense, lots of three-WR sets. Lots of motion, too. Flanker moves to FB, H-back/TE to FB, FB to H-back, etc. Palmer’s offense does not look vanilla.

8:01pm – Live field goal work! Coaches yelling at the defense “Keep your hands up!” over and over. Whoa! Coleman just missed getting a finger on a kick coming from the right side. The Jasons, Simmons and Suttle, almost get the block coming from the left. Suttle especially looked quick. Tuthill kicks better this time with a rush, but Brown schools him, nailing all of his kicks. He obviously has a stronger leg.

8:12pm – The down markers are out baby!! The offense is working against the defense again, and Pitts is doing a fine job on Posey. Foreman blitzes and reaches the QB. Carr fumbles an exchange and S Kevin Williams scoops it up, taking it to the end zone. Another guy with great speed.

Ooh! Jeremy McKinney just locked horns with DT Jerry DeLoach, and DeLoach loses his helmet. Lewis makes maybe the catch of the day, reaching for the ball behind CB Jacoby Shepard, who had decent coverage on the play. Doh! Avion Black and Gaffney line up twins on the wrong side. Graham hits Sherrod Gideon on a nice pass and catch. Wells shows tremendous balance on a run up the gut, showing off a nice little spin move. Jenkins does well in picking up a blitz.

8:23pm – Send in the 6-foot ladders! The QBs play shotgun for the next set of passing.

It’s very much like there are two head coaches out there. The defense is Capers’, and the offense is Palmer’s. I hardly see Capers anywhere near the offense.

Tony Simmons has a nice jitterstep move, but it is Black that is firmly entrenched as the number four WR. Gideon makes two nice moves – one on a completion to the sideline from Carr, the other he burns Suttle deep, but Graham underthrows him. Bradford also looks good, hauling in a pass in front of Shepard. Chew gets in the act and makes a nice catch himself. Quinn throws two bad passes in a row and does not look nearly as sharp as he did an hour ago.

Carr throws to Gideon’s way three times during the course of this drill. Carr is dead-on accurate on each one, including a 15-yd out and later a deep post pattern. Gideon drops one of the passes that hits his hands. Moreland and Gaffney each catch other Carr passes. Carr looks like he’s getting more and more comfortable.

As for the fullbacks, Jarrod Baxter has oodles of talent. It won’t be long before he takes over the starting spot this year. He’s got some hands and a little speed, too. Snider isn’t bad, but Baxter’s got a future. Knapp drops a ball that Sankey threw to the middle of his chest. He’s bound to be an early cut. Cliff Groce looks really nice catching a ball in the flats, then turning on the jets.

8:37pm – Ladders are gone as it’s game-like offense vs. defense, with the play clock running. And here’s what gets me: this is about the time when some fans start to leave the practice. Come on! This is the best part.

The starters on defense look like this: On DL, it’s Jabari Issa, DeLoach, Seth Payne. The LBs are still Wong, Sharper, Foreman and Posey. The secondary is Glenn, Williams, Stevens and Coleman. Sinceno, who had problems blocking earlier, mauls Posey. Why is Posey getting this much time?? Bueller? Jones and Mitchell are both looking so much better.

Carr fails to see Black wide open downfield, choosing to tuck the ball and run. Black has done well tonight in practice. That number four WR slot could be a dogfight between Black, Gideon, Simmons, and Insley, but Black is doing well as the incumbent.

Uh oh. RT Ryan Young does not look nearly as good pass blocking as he does run blocking. Dorian Boose pushes him back too easily. Maybe Young is lacking some upper body strength.

When the WRs line up in a three-WR set, Bradford and Gaffney are the split ends and Lewis is the flanker. Baxter misses a block. Flowers misses one even worse. Suttle makes a nice diving INT on a pass from Quinn. Frustrated, Quinn nails Jones on his next throw. Simmons snares a high pass with both hands. Is he getting a fair shake? He’s done nothing I’ve seen so far to keep him around 6th or 7th on the depth chart.

8:48pm – Toro’s back. He looks like a steel blue wookie. Will somebody get this walking carpet out of my way?

8:50pm – Uh oh. LB Jason Lamar goes down with an ankle injury. The line of scrimmage moves forward about twenty yards and play continues while Lamar is attended to by members of the Texans staff.

8:54pm – Cool down stretching.

8:56pm – Team huddles around Capers.

9:00pm – Practice ends. Position coaches add some final words with their units.

9:10pm – Wong is totally sucking face with this really hot woman, who I presume to be his wife, Marissa. Yeow! Nights sequestered away at the Radisson with 11pm bed checks must be particularly difficult for Wong.

July 26, 2002
The Houston Texans began practice Friday night feeling the effects of nagging injuries. LB Jason Lamar, who was seen on sidelines resting on crutches, led the MASH brigade who mostly watched the team’s third open practice in front of the fans.

The evening’s surprising player missing in action was LT Chester Pitts, who’s still holding down the Position of Great Importance while Tony Boselli recovers. Hopefully nothing too serious, as Pitts was reportedly ill during afternoon meetings. Jimmy Herndon saw his reps with the first team tonight.

The most excitement of the evening came at the end of practice. The team pulled out a game clock in the north end zone of the practice field to go with the play clock which had been in place all week. The first and second teams each practiced as if there were only eighty seconds left on the clock in which to score. Read on to find out how they did…

6:50pm – K James Tuthill is practicing kickoffs and is reaching the goaline. Until the practice begins in earnest, CB Jacoby Shepard and RBs Delvon Flowers and Michael Jenkins are shagging balls. I find myself looking for Pitts, as he’s one that’s impressed me so far, but he’s nowhere to be found. I get nervous.

6:52pm – Now the kickoff practice really begins. WR Jermaine Lewis and RB James Allen are back to receive. K Kris Brown booms a ball five yards deep into the end zone. Jenkins and WR Avion Black go out to receive kicks next, followed by RB Travis Prentice and WR Sherrod Gideon. When the Allen/Lewis team gets its next turn, Allen fields the kick, runs forward a couple yards and then hands off to Lewis who is cutting in front of him.

7:00pm – Lots of staged cheering as KTRK’s live broadcast for training camp airs. Aside from that and all the additional cabling along the plastic fence separating the fans from the field, the broadcast isn’t really noticeable.

7:05pm – The 40-yard jogs, then stretching.

7:15pm – Offense stays on the near field, defense to the far field. Still looking for Pitts, I note all of the other players who aren’t in pads tonight. Of course Boselli’s not, RT Ryan Young and TE Rod Rutledge are not, and Lamar’s on crutches. I see TE Rashod Kent and DE Gary Walker running. Rookie CB DeMarcus Faggins is jogging on the far field with ILB Jimmy McClain. WR Larry Davis is on an exercise bike. TE Billy Miller is walking ten yards backward then ten yards forward. For a team that seemed in pretty good shape two days ago, the week is obviously wearing on the players.

Of those in pads this evening, the offense is setting up a four wideout formation for the two-minute drill expected later in practice. The bookends on the offensive line are noticeably different, as Herndon works at LT for the absent Pitts, and Max Lane fills in at RT for Young. Otherwise, the starters on both sides still look the same from Wednesday evening.

7:22pm – Toro trips over the KTRK cables – but he’s okay!

TEs work on pass and run blocking with the LBs. TE Jake Moreland, who is presumably fighting Kaseem Sinceno for the third and final spot on the final roster, has a terrific opportunity to make a play for himself with both Rutledge and Miller ailing. Facing ROLB Jeff Posey, Moreland manhandles him while run blocking. Posey later burns him big time in pass blocking though. LB Terrell Washington gets by him easily, too. LB Greg Jones mauls the guy he’s facing, then LB Tony Donald overpowers TE/LS Sean McDermott. One of the coaches yells at McDermott, “Aw, come on!”

7:34pm – Receivers leave the near field as the squads work on running plays. Sweet! Allen just made an awesome cut in traffic. Jenkins outruns everyone outside to the left. Herndon is looking good on Posey. LB Keith Mitchell later gets great penetration and recovers a fumble from the running back. Why Posey’s still running with the first team and Mitchell (or Jones for that matter) is not is a mystery greater than the Rosetta Stone.

S Leomont Evans blows past the block of TE Joey Knapp and makes the most of it, wrapping up the runner in the backfield. Rookie Greg White is another guy who gets into the backfield too easily from the LOLB position.

Ick… the guy next to me says a player just threw up. It’s DE Corey Sears, who seems to be having the most trouble out of all the players this week. Thankfully, I missed the vomit.

Rookie FB Jarrod Baxter lays a nice block on LB Troy Evans, then RB Jonathan Wells fumbles what looked to be a good handoff from QB Ben Sankey.

7:46pm – Time for walk-throughs with the scout teams. The one play of note is a reverse the offense runs to Gideon.

7:54pm – More kickoff work, this time with partial coverage and return teams. Tuthill’s kicks go to the 5-yard line, 1-yard deep in the end zone, the 18-yard line, and 4-yards deep in the end zone. Brown’s kicks are to the 3-yard line, the goaline, and 5-yards deep in the end zone. Lots of good hitting in this drill. Sinceno knocks off WR Eric Chew’s helmet who was charging to make a play. C Craig Heimbburger absorbs a big hit before falling backwards into the turf. Jenkins does an awesome job on one return working his way through the wedge.

8:04pm – Offense vs. Defense, this time with a play clock, but it’s generally not a factor that I can see. QB David Carr overthrows a bullet to Allen who’s only four yards away. CB Aaron Glenn has great coverage running with Gideon step-for-step on a deep pattern. Carr is locked on Gideon the whole way and has to tuck and run. Carr then unleashes hell with a pass that buries into ILB Jay Foreman. He was supposed to hit a TE on the play. He throws another laser to Black. Damn! I’ve not seen Carr ever throw this hard, and he is far less accurate than he was on Wednesday. He’s starting to get frustrated, but it looks like he’s not reading through his progressions quickly enough. CB Marcus Coleman blitzes on the next play and Carr zings a low bad pass.

QB Mike Quinn is still second string, and he throws a nice screen pass to Lewis, who makes one quick cut, then he’s gone. Ooh, some coach, I think it may be defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, yells “You don’t know what you’re doing!” I think this is directed to FS Toya Jones. A wide open Atnaf Harris drops a ball that hits both his hands. Sankey is then off the mark on a throw to Gideon.

8:14pm – Linemen move to the far field. Carr starts looking much better without the pass rush and is able to plant his feet. He then underthrows WR Jabar Gaffney and the ball hits Glenn’s hands. Though it maybe could have been intercepted, Glenn’s having a great night in coverage. Carr then throws again to Gaffney, this time getting picked off by FS Kevin Williams, who’s in zone coverage. Ouch!! Carr throws another INT, this time to Evans. Carr is way too short on his throws, and he’s afraid to throw into coverage on the next play. Frustrated, he gives way to Quinn and the second unit.

Wow! WR Dwaune Jones burns Shepard on a 50-yard TD pass from Quinn. It may be the pass and catch of the practice.

CB Jason Simmons blows his assignment and leaves Sinceno, who’s split right, wide open. Jones makes another nice grab from QB Kent Graham. Graham then hits Gideon on an out pattern. Sankey again throws too high to his receiver. Gaffney then snares a ball running a post pattern.

Carr comes back in and nails a 40-yard pass to Gideon, who left CB Jason Suttle in his wake. Carr hits another receiver 30 yards downfield, and he looks like he’s settled down. Lewis catches a low pass from Carr, but Carr doesn’t see that WR Corey Bradford is wide open streaking down the sideline. Gideon then drops a pass he should have caught. SS Matt Stevens is all over WR John Minardi in coverage. Bradford blows past CB Anthony Marlborough, but Carr again is short. Bradford still has enough room to adjust and make the 50-yd reception. FB Matt Snider has a bad two-handed drop. Carr then leads Black too far on an out.

8:34pm – Linemen return for 11-on-11. The offensive line looks like this: Herndon, DeMingo Graham, Steve McKinney, Fred Weary and Max Lane. The offense runs a reverse to Lewis, but the blocking up front isn’t there. Carr is again off-target to WR Trevor Insley, hitting J. Simmons in the pads. C Ryan Schau comes in and does a great job opening a hole. Allen makes a big jumping cutback in traffic. He’s still looking like the best RB on the roster. Bradford catches another pass and takes off. This is the best I’ve seen him look all week. He can be a game breaker.

White is getting more work at LOLB tonight behind Kailee Wong and G. Jones. White sure can blitz. DT Jerry DeLoach outmuscles G Chad Overhauser and gets good push up the middle. Gideon runs a fly pattern and hauls in a pass from Carr. Williams has good coverage on the play, but Carr places it perfectly.

8:48pm – At long last, the game clock starts running. The first team offense gets a crack at moving from their own 40-yard line with 1:20 to go. On first down, Carr tucks the ball and runs to the sideline. He pump fakes then steps out of bounds for a 5-yard gain. The offense calls for a running play on 2nd down, but it goes nowhere. LDE Dorian Boose then jumps offsides on the next play. I don’t see that they mark off any penalty yardage. I think they just replay third down. Carr hits Gaffney for a 15-yard gain, then hurries to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball.

It is now second down on the 40-yard line, 33 seconds left on the clock. Carr throws too high for Black. Third down, 29 seconds left. Carr flushed out of the pocket and decides to keep it. He carries for 8 yards, but is shy of the first down marker. The field goal unit comes on as Brown lines up for a 51-yard attempt. DT Charles Hill gets a hand on the ball, and the attempt is short! Nice play!!

8:54pm – Quinn leads the second team. There’s another 1:20 on the clock. On first down, Quinn keeps and makes it to the sideline for a nice 9-yard gain. 2nd and 1, 1:13 on the clock. Quinn tosses to Jenkins for a first down.

1st and 10 from the 45, 1:06 to go. Quinn tosses incomplete to Insley. FS Chris Carter deflects the pass. 2nd down and 10, 1:00 to go. Quinn incomplete to Jenkins on a screen pass. 3rd down and 10, 0:57 remaining. Mitchell gets in Quinn’s face and gets a hand on the next pass, making it 4th and 10, 0:53 left. Outside of FG range, the offense goes for it on 4th down. Quinn overthrows an open Insley.

8:59pm – Cool down stretching.

9:01pm – Team huddles around Capers.

9:04pm – Practice ends.

9:08pm – Capers and Casserly talk to each other on the 40-yard line.

Carr showed signs that he is in fact a rookie tonight, and we should expect to him to struggle at times. His gun, though, is truly Favre-esque. He should really get a license for that thing.

The last ten minutes of this practice where the team was running the hurry up offense were some of the most exciting of the entire week. It really makes it look like a game is right around the corner.

July 29, 2002
With the close of Monday’s second practice, the weekend’s festivities don’t seem so far away anymore. And for the Texans, they’ll need every last snap they can squeeze in to be ready to play.

The revolving door that is the list of nagging injuries has had quite a few comings and goings since I last updated the diary. QB Mike Quinn sat out of practice tonight with a slight groin pull, while RT Ryan Young returned to the field in pads, but he did not line up once all evening. The catch of the day is brought to you by the hands of another member of the formerly wounded, TE Rashod Kent.

And the best thing I saw was DE Gary Walker running… and running… and running. Hopefully, he’ll return to the field soon. Our D-line is really missing his presence.

Now, onto the diary…

6:43pm – Punters are on the field kicking, and sucking. No wait, they’re kicking into a pretty good wind, and it’s really holding the ball up in the air. My bad.

Bored with the punters, I scan the sidelines for players in blue shorts and no pads. The list includes: QB Mike Quinn, TE Kaseem Sinceno, OT Tony Boselli, Walker, OG Jeremy McKinney, OLB Greg Jones, C Craig Heimburger, WR Larry Davis, LB Jimmy McClain and C Mike Newell.

The players who returned to the field in pads: Young, TE Rod Rutledge, OT Chester Pitts, TE Billy Miller, C Calvin Collins and Kent.

6:54pm – Other players hit the field to continue the punt/punt return work. WR Jermaine Lewis and WR Jabar Gaffney are back to shag the kicks. The line of scrimmage moves way back, putting the punters at the back of the enzone. Each of the punters is able to get off their kicks, and now with the wind behind them, some of their punts go really far.

7:08pm – Time for a couple 40-yard jogs, then everyone stretches. Young doesn’t run, but Sinceno and G. Jones do.

7:18pm – Offense stays on the near field, defense trots away to the far field. Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer is barking play calls into the offense, then they run through them half speed. After a few minutes of this, the linemen also run off to the far field.

The TEs and RBs do that weaving leapfrog drill again. Three at a time, the guy in the middle sidesteps to his right, drops and rolls, then the player on the right jumps over him and rolls to the left into the third player. All three do this with a football in one hand. While this is going on, I see G. Walker, Sinceno and Jones all running. Walker is starting to get back into playing shape; he’s looking pretty good, and he’s getting a little more of his flexibility back.

7:28pm – Skill position players stay on the near field, and QBs David Carr and Kent Graham start throwing 50-yard passes to the WRs. Speaking of the WRs, Corey Bradford and Tony Simmons each have the bottom halves of their jersey tucked under their pads. To keep themselves cool, you might ask? Doubtful. Each is sporting a nice six-pack, and not the kind the fans two rows down from me are sporting.

Graham’s deep balls are not a thing of beauty, by the way. Here’s hoping that, if he’s ever doing this when it counts, the WRs are as open as they are now (when the DBs are an entire field away from the action). Graham’s balls are spirals, but they have a funny angle about them, not like Carr’s leveled darts.

The QBs and WRs work on a couple patterns next, and WR John Minardi has a really bad drop, then hears it from the fans. Poor John. Carr is accurate on every single one of his passes and he is looking much more confident out there than he did on Friday.

7:37pm – The WRs leave, and the safeties and LBs return with the linemen. With all the shuffling, the first teams look a tad different tonight. The offensive line looks like: Max Lane (RT), Fred Weary (RG), Steve McKinney (C), Ryan Schau (LG), Chester Pitts (LT). Jimmy Herndon comes in as the second team RT and DeMingo Graham replaces Weary as well. Rutledge is lined up as the TE, and in this particular formation, Miller is lined up with him as the H-back. On one play, Herndon does a nice job sealing off LB Terrell Washington to break RB James Allen on a nice run.

The D-line is a little different tonight, too. First team defense looks like this: Jabari Issa (LDE), Seth Payne (DT), Jerry DeLoach (RDE), Kailee Wong (LOLB), Jamie Sharper (LILB), Jay Foreman (RILB), Jeff Posey (ROLB), Matt Stevens (SS), and Kevin Williams (FS). OLBs Greg White and Keith Mitchell sub in as the second teamers with G. Jones out.

7:48pm – Time for work against the scout teams. Tonight the focus is on short yardage plays and formations. The formation repeated most often is a three-TE set with the backs in an I. What’s interesting is that the three TEs are Rutledge, Miller, and Kent. Has Kent passed Moreland, or is Kent a goalline specialist? Hmmm… Well, Carr lofts a pass to Kent deep in the corner of the endzone and he pulls it in for the score. He looks pretty good. Carr runs a QB draw on one play. I can’t help but notice that, in the goaline huddle, compared with his teammates, Lewis is so short he looks like Lil’ Bow Wow out there.

7:57pm – A suspicious helicopter flies over the practice field, and I can see that the colors of the aircraft are aqua, coral, and white. Hmm… know of any upcoming preseason opponents that fashion that color scheme???

7:58pm – The team goes 11-on-11 and works on live punting. Now these guys are kicking with a little wind at their backs, but man, are they kicking the crap out of the ball. Starting from a line of scrimmage at the 20, these kicks aren’t touching the ground until they reach the 20 on the other side of the field. Stanley gets off the longest kick, around 64-yards. Langley looks the least consistent of the three. The guy in front of me has a stopwatch and gets some hang times. One of P John Baker’s is 4.7 seconds, and it’s not out of the ordinary. As SI‘s Peter King might opine if he were still here: “I think I think that’s a good hang time.”

8:07pm – All players are on the near field and the play clock is running. There’s also a game clock running, and it’s set to start at two minutes fifty seconds. From what I can deduct, the offense is working on securing that final first down to seal a victory.

The first team offense is playing the second team defense. The formation is a new one – singleback, 2-TE, 1-WR and an H-back, who looks to be Jarrod Baxter. On the first play, LB Billy Glanville gets through the line and reaches Allen before he can get anywhere. Immediately, I wish for Baxter to return to FB and end this silliness. Carr zips a play action pass to Rutledge. First down achieved.

On their second attempt Carr throws a pass to Rutledge again, but S Leomont Evans gets there in time to break it up. On second down, Glanville blitzes again, but Carr reacts and nails Miller. Looks like S Chris Carter blew the coverage because Miller was wide freaking open.

The second team is not nearly as adept, as Graham overthrows WR Trevor Insley by 5 yards. Glenn had really good coverage on the play anyway. Also, two nice runs by Wells before Graham’s poor pass.

8:19pm – Ladder time. Stevens is slow in coverage as Carr drills another pass to Rutledge. Carr next hits Kent, and Capers has a few words with Mitchell who lost him in coverage. Finally, Miller also gets into the act with a catch on another pass from Carr that hits the target. He’s been very accurate all night. WR Avion Black has a drop on a slant pattern. CB Jacoby Shepard was way behind in coverage, too. Jason Simmons was slow in trailing Insley, but broke up a pass to TE Joey Knapp on the next play. Graham then fires a pass to Minardi — it’s the hardest I’ve seen him throw all week. He must be really trying to win back that spot from Quinn. S Ramon Walker blitzes and Carr makes a nice read, then QB Ben Sankey comes in and thows a nice pass to a leaping Gaffney.

8:35pm – Play clock back on for more 11-on-11. Steve McKinney looks very tough locking up Payne. Pitts also looks good picking up a blitzing LB and keeps him from getting near the QB. DE Uhuru Hamiter has two nice rushes, but Lane has no problem containing DE Dorian Boose. CB Larry Austin must’ve goofed because some coach is giving him an earful.

8:48pm – Ball on the 3-yd line as the first team offense runs the short yardage plays they practiced earlier. Baxter throws a lead block for Jenkins and the result is six points. Carr then throws a pass to a diving Kent, and he comes up with an amazing catch!! WOW! Another six. Allen scores behind a great block by Pitts, then Carr throws a nice pass to Miller for another score. Issa is not showing very good balance. The second team offense tries against the first team defense and doesn’t look nearly as good, though the defense did just watch pretty much all the same plays before taking their turn.

8:58pm – Live field goal work, start on the left hash, then the right hash, then back to the left. Charley Casserly is under the right goalpost to tell us whether K Kris Brown is good or not. First attempt is a 43-yarder. Wide right motions Casserly! Uh oh. Not to worry. Brown’s next four attempts: from 43 yards… Good! Again from 43-yards… Good! From 48 yards… Good! From 55 yards… GOOD!!!

9:01pm – Cool down stretching.

9:03pm – Team huddles around Capers.

9:06pm – Practice ends. Position coaches add some final words.

Lots of emphasis again on special teams tonight, and it’s probably not a coincidence what with the Hall of Fame game upcoming. With a kicking game working, Capers and his staff will be able to better focus on other aspects of their offense and defense.