After Bill O'Brien's assessment of the Texans' Tuesday practice as subpar and lacking in energy, you knew two things to be true regarding Wednesday's practice before it took place — (a) it would be a fully padded practice, with lots of hitting (well, trying camp style hitting, with nobody really going to the ground), and (b) it would be spirited and energetic.
Wednesday's session at the Greenbrier lived up to the hype, and there were plenty of occurrences and performance to sink our teeth into. Here are eight takeaways from Wednesday's Texans practice, as the Texans are just a week away from their first preseason game, next Thursday in Kansas City:
1. Holy cow, Brennan Scarlett PICK SIX!
The 11-on-11 portion of practice started off with a bang, as outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett picked off a Deshaun Watson toss out in the flat and walked it into the end zone for a pick six. It was, by far, the coolest moment of practice as the music playing over the loudspeakers hit a heavy refrain beat just as the defense's celebration ensued. I'm not too worried about Watson turning into some sort of Schaubesque pick six machine. To the contrary, I think it was encouraging to see Scarlett make a play like that, so the Texans could give him more snaps at OLB, and allow Jadeveon Clowney to move around a little bit more in various formations.
2. Who is this Troymaine Pope fellow?
We've seen it many times in New England over the last few years, with nondescript running backs like Shane Vereen, James White, and Dion Lewis go from afterthoughts to true threats because of Tom Brady. I think the Texans hope for a similar effect wit Deshaun Watson and running back Troymaine Pope. On Wednesday, Pope saw plenty of touches, both on handoffs and receptions out of the backfield. Watch Pope this preseason, as there may be a very specific role for him as a third down back.
3. How does J.J. Watt look?
I've been asked this multiple times on Twitter and on my radio show. The answer is "He looks tremendous! IN spectacular shape, no knee braces, just the elbow brace, which is more part of his brand than an actual medical apparatus, at this point." On Wednesday, Watt took part in all of the position group drills, but no action in 11-on-11. Unfortunately, we won't find out what Watt REALLY has in the tank until he is taking on opposing defenders wearing a different team's uniform.
4. Ka'imi Fairbairn's scattershot right leg
In one of the stranger roster decisions this preseason, the Texans chose not to bring any competition to camp for kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn. It's not like Fairbairn was good enough in 2017 to where he should be guaranteed his job, or at the very least, guaranteed not to sweat a little bit. At any rate, on Wednesday, Bill O'Brien had a session in which Fairbairn attempted about ten field goals on narrowed uprights. It was not pretty. Lots of misses, and many that would have missed on normal uprights. Fairbairn's performance is something worth watching over the next few weeks.
5. Will Fuller vs Kevin Johnson has been a fun training camp battle
In 11-on-11, Deshaun Watson had a few throws on some out routes to Fuller, in which Fuller had to flash his new, larger 185 pound frame and box out Johnson to make a few impressive catches. It's always nice to see Fuller catching something other than a go route, and truth be told, Johnson was in great position to make plays, Fuller just shielded him off. If it's possible, I was encouraged by both guys in watching this matchup, which is a good thing, as both are crucial pieces if this team is to reach its potential.
6. Tight end is an underrated position group
We've discussed the number situation in this group when constructing the 53-man roster last week. Ryan Griffin, fully healthy, is a lock to start at tight end, probably. The story at this position is the performance of the two rookie draft picks early in camp. Both Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas look like they can be dangerous in the passing game. Add in Stephen Anderson, and you have four tight ends that most think should make the club. Even a guy like Eric Lengel has gotten mention from O'Brien for his work in camp, thus far.
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7. What about Clowney?
He wasn't doing any of the team drills on Wednesday, but he did spend time after practice running sprints on the side field. My observations? Clowney still appears to be fast. He was smiling a lot, so he appears to be in good spirits. And he was shirtless, and I can tell you that he appears to be eating his lima beans.
And finally, Texans tweet of the day... Tyrann Mathieu MIC'D UP!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.