Like an Old Pair of Jeans

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July 31, 2003
Like an Old Pair of Jeans

by Keith Weiland

The Texans are just two workouts into their 2004 training camp, and if there is one thing noticeably different from the last two camps, it’s the familiarity that abounds.

These guys know each other this time around. In the previous two years, many new faces walked in and out of Reliant Park. It resulted in some awkward, out-of-sorts play, and a lot of mistakes.

Not so during Saturday’s evening workout. This is fast becoming a veteran team on both sides of the ball. While we may not see the results of that development until September’s kickoff against the Chargers, the Texans know they have a good thing building.

July 31, 2004
Evening Practice

6:34 – Some of the guys start walking onto the practice field, as once again we are outside in the muggy evening air. The attire for this workout has changed from the morning, as players now wear uniform pants instead of the shorts.

6:44 – Oh bother. I have to update you on the walking wounded already. As everyone probably knows by now, tight end Bennie Joppru, quarterback B.J. Symons, and safety Ramon Walker have been placed on the physically unable to perform list, so they’re not in pads. Neither is nose tackle Seth Payne, but that’s not a surprise either.

There are more, however, that are in shorts and no pads, such as center Steve McKinney, right guard Zach Wiegert, and safety Glenn Earl. Wiegert is battling an elbow problem, and Earl is probably being cautious on his surgically repaired knee. McKinney? I’m beginning to think the big guy just likes dogging camp.

Just kidding.

6:55 – First horn blows, and players spread out all over the place. The quarterbacks and centers go off to one corner of the field and work on their exchanges. McKinney is snapping to Symons, making that them the injured gruesome twosome. ON the field behind me, linebacker Jamie Sharper is plugging footballs into a juggs machine and firing them at a few of the receivers who are not involved in the punt walkthroughs.

7:06 – Time for jogging and stretching. The players are loosening more than just their limbs, as several of them bounce the banter back and forth like a game of Pong.

7:17 – The defense jogs off to the far field while the offense stays on the near field. The first units are the same as they were in the morning, except for one spot. Todd Washington fills in for McKinney at center.

The backs and receivers break out for what I call the gauntlet drill, where a player carries the football in one hand while running between two lines of players trying to pop the ball loose. “One ball squirted to the ground this morning,” Offensive Coordinator Chris Palmer says to the group, “and that was one too many.” J.J. Moses takes his turn through the gauntlet, and wide receiver Jabar Gaffney gives him a forearm pop at the end. Each laugh at the other afterward.

The receivers next run deep patterns along the sideline to catch lofted throws from the quarterbacks. Coach Kippy Brown tells rookie Sloan Thomas to “hop on it” to snare the pass out of the sky, which he does. Gaffney and Moses can’t handle their passes. Thomas gets another chance to haul in a catch but drops it. “Two hands from the beginning,” Brown says.

On the other field, the defensive backs are working with coach Jon Hoke to improve their backpedaling and change of direction skills. Dunta Robinson shows off some quick cuts. He uses short, choppy, precise steps and doesn’t look at all like a rookie during these drills.

Converted safety Jammal Lord, however, is another story. His steps are slower and Hoke says he looks like he’s stuck in sand when he backpedals. Demarcus Faggins’ movements are tight when he’s asked to backpedal and turn around. Other defensive backs try to spin to compensate for their inability to turn around as fast. Hoke calls them ballerinas.

Finally, the defensive backs work on shedding kick out blocks and squaring for an imaginary tackle. It’s a kind of drill to simulate the block an offensive player may put on one of them to make way for a wideout or a running back headed their direction. Marcus Coleman is a monster at this drill. He will definitely be an asset to the run defense as a safety for any running back that somehow makes his way past the linebackers this season.

7:35 – 11-on-11 work. Reserve tackle Marcus Spears hauls upfield to make a block on safety Eric Brown. Spears was moving faster than expected for a man his size, but how could Brown not see him coming from that far away and squeeze around him?

Quarterback Dave Ragone steps in and makes the loudest, harshest snap counts of any passer the team has ever had under center. At one point, one of his counts is enough to cause his own right tackle, Brad Lekkerkerker, to foul start.

Running back Jason Anderson continued the momentum from his strong morning workout, making a slick cutback move and slicing between guard Brandon Evans and center Luke Butkus for a big gain. Fellow running back Tony Hollings is also quick to the hole on an inside run. No tentative stutter steps from him so far.

7:45 – Time to work out some plays against the scout team. Shantee Orr is working as a shadow behind inside linebacker Jay Foreman, while Troy Evans shadows Sharper. Jerry Deloach is getting time at nose in place of Payne.

7:55 – Punt return practice. Orr nearly beats Jonathan Wells to get to punter Chad Stanley. DaShon Polk and Antwan Peek are the quickest downfield in coverage. Returner Rober’ Freeman signals for his teammates to get away from the football, then he fields it on a hop and blows past everyone up field. Rookie D.D. Acholonu runs into Stanley after one of the punts. Special teams coach Joe Marciano is quick to track down Acholonu to share a few words with him.

8:10 – Back to more 11-on-11 work. Cornerback Aaron Glenn covers Andre Johnson tight and prevents a completion. Eric Brown gets an early jump defending a pass into tight end Jabari Holloway, but he isn’t flagged by a nearby referee. Guard Fred Weary jumps offsides and has to run a lap around the field. Tight end Mark Bruener locks up Peek to nullify a blitz from the outside. Defensive lineman Terrence Martin breaks through the middle, but the rushed pass is still complete to Hollings. Hollings though loses the football in traffic, but falls on it quickly. Left outside linebacker Anthony Dunn blows past Todd Wade to lay a hand on Domanick Davis.

Head coach Dom Capers is very concerned about the tempo of practice, as the third team offense slows down to get a play set up. Anderson makes a nice run behind a block from Lekkerkerker. Lekkerkerker then makes another sharp block to crack Wells for a big gain. Lekkerkerker’s string of good plays is cut short when he jumps early on another one of Ragone’s hard counts. Off he goes to run his penalty lap.

8:23 – 7-on-7 practice, with the play clock running down from 18 seconds after each huddle breaks. David Carr completes six consecutive passes, each of them to different receivers. One of those receivers is fullback Moran Norris, who is showing marked improvement in that aspect of his game. He is going to make it very difficult on Jarrod Baxter to take playing time away from him.

Backup quarterback Tony Banks isn’t as sharp as Carr on his passes, but he does a decent job as well. He fires a 20-yard pass that sticks to the gut of wide receiver Kendrick Starling. He later finds Corey Bradford on a quick route. Bradford jukes reserve corner Eric Kelly out of his shoes to break for big yardage after the reception.

Lord tries to jump a route while covering Davis. Whoops, bad idea. Davis makes the catch and is gone. Wide receiver Derick Armstrong does something wrong before the next play is snapped and gets an earful from Palmer. Robinson then deflects a pass intended for Moses.

Ragone completes to Davis. Despite his vociferous snap counts, Ragone definitely looks like a different quarterback this year. He’s got a little swagger in his giddyup, and he looks much more like an NFL passer than he did a year ago. Ragone flips a great deep pass complete to Andrae Thurman, who beats both Lord and Vontez Duff in coverage.

8:39 – 11-on-11 scrimmage. Carr completes to tight end Billy Miller for 13 yards. Rookie left outside linebacker Jason Babin is mega-quick on his pass rush, but Wade slides over just in time to pick him up. Davis later breaks a big run off a block by Wade.

Ragone may have a strong arm, but he shows off a nice touch pass to reserve tight end Matt Murphy while rolling to his right. Miller goes in motion on the next play to fullback, then Banks throws a play action pass to him for a completion. Hollings catches a screen pass in the flat that fools everyone on the third team defense. Anderson looks good again blowing up the middle. He’s got a nice combination of balance, moves, size, and speed.

Robaire Smith makes sure his presence is felt when he overpowers center Andrew Martin and pushes him deep into the backfield. Ragone later rolls left and finds tight end John Frieser open for a completion.

8:55 – Field goals. Kicker Kris Brown makes his 38-yarders with ease. Faggins gives Kailee Wong a little heartburn as he gets around him in almost enough time to block Brown’s third attempt.

8:58 – Cool down stretches.

9:00 – Team huddle.

In Their Own Words

Jason Babin
“My mother, she hates (my tattoos). She says the only thing they’re good for is to pick me out on the field. (The transition to a two-point stance) is not too bad. I’m still on the line quite a bit. The only real difference, for the most part, is that first step. Now, I’m already up. I always enjoyed standing up in college, but the coaches told me I was a defenseman and to put my hand down. So, it doesn’t feel too foreign to me.”

Dave Ragone Dave Ragone Home

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