August 7, 2004
Wondering About Wand
by Keith Weiland
Just remember it can only get better from here.
The Texans battled the Dolphins on Saturday afternoon at Reliant Stadium, culminating two days worth of workouts against their AFC conference rivals. While no score was kept as a part of this scrimmage, neither side is likely to come away from the afternoon feeling good about their respective team’s performance.
Of most alarming concern for the Texans has to be the play of left tackle Seth Wand. A second year pro from Northwest Missouri State, Wand had been elevated to the first team offensive line during offseason mini-camp workouts. Though he practiced against the Dolphins on Friday and again earlier in the morning, his work during Saturday’s scrimmage was essentially his first live competition against an outside opponent.
And what a tough first assignment Wand drew in defensive end Jason Taylor. Wand was overmatched by Taylor’s pass rushing speed for much of the afternoon, giving up three sacks to the former Pro Bowler.
Wand’s lackluster performance casts some doubt on his ability to protect quarterback David Carr’s blindside this season. Granted, this is only a scrimmage and preseason games have yet to even be played, but should Carr take another brutal hit to his shoulder, the 2004 season could be over before it evens begins.
The Texans will likely continue to assess Wand’s development for another week of training camp workouts, and like his teammates, he is still learning a new zone blocking scheme. It remains to be seen, though, how patient the team will be with Wand before they tug him out of the first team.
Also unknown is what the Texans’ Plan B option might be if they decide Wand isn’t quite ready.
The coaching staff may decide to shift Chester Pitts back to left tackle from his new position of left guard, that spot he has manned since the team’s first-ever game. The Texans may not be too anxious to make that move, given their feelings about Pitts’ long-term potential as a guard.
So that might leave the team to look at newcomer Marcus Spears at left tackle. Spears, 32, was a castoff of the Chiefs just before the onset of camp. He has some starting experience on his NFL resume, but his upside is certainly limited.
Hollings Showcased Running back Tony Hollings received the bulk of the first-team carries during Saturday’s scrimmage. Regular starter Domanick Davis sat out for the day and did not see any action.
Hollings’ increased playing time against the Dolphins seems almost too convenient to be coincidental. Considering the recent speculation by the Miami Herald in the wake of Ricky Williams’ surprise retirement that Hollings might be available via trade to the Dolphins, Hollings’ time in the spotlight couldn’t be better scripted. The Texans, however, were quick to dispute the speculation last week following the publication of the report.
In the absence of official statistics, Hollings’ performance as the featured back in the scrimmage is best described as adequate, though unspectacular. While he has much to prove still running between the tackles, he did display outside speed to the sidelines once again on Saturday.
Early in the scrimmage, Hollings was able to take advantage of a huge hole created by Wand and Pitts for a gain that accumulated roughly 20 yards. That play’s success though had much more to do with the offensive line’s run blocking than it did with Hollings’ inside rushing ability.
Peek Performance Right outside linebacker Antwan Peek continued to make some noise in Saturday’s scrimmage as he made a key play for the defense during a two-minute drill.
On second down, with the Dolphins threatening to score from the 10-yard line, Peek sacked Miami quarterback A.J. Feeley for a nine-yard loss. Feely had been flushed out of the pocket into Peek’s pass rushing arms by fellow linebacker Jason Babin. The Dolphins then failed to score on the drive’s final two plays.
Peek, in his second year out of Cincinnati, played with the first team defense in place Kailee Wong, who missed the scrimmage due to the birth of his son. Not one to be shy, twice this week Peek has been involved in a fight with another player. Following April’s draft in which the Texans made three selections at his position (Babin, Charlie Anderson, and Raheem Orr), Peek has increased his intensity for the competition and shown improvement from his rookie season.
Ring His Bell With apologies to Peek and his sack, perhaps the most impressive defensive play by a Texan on Saturday was made by linebacker Marcus Bell. During an 11-on-11 “rookie” scrimmage (veteran players also played when rookies were not available at a position), Bell muscled the football from Dolphins tight end John Jones following a short completion. The turnover highlighted a strong performance for Bell, 27, who is expected to see increased playing time in next week’s preseason game against the Cowboys.
Up Next The Texans have the day off on Sunday, then they are back to two-a-day practices on Monday. Weather permitting, the team will practice under the lights in front of fans once again on Monday night.
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