On Wednesday, the Texans spent another day banging around in pads at the Greenbrier in West Virginia. There was some good (J.J. is back!), some bad (Will Fuller is injured) and some fun (FIGHTS!). Here are some observations from about 100 feet away from the action:
1. J.J. Watt is back
On Tuesday, my first day observing practice this preseason, Watt was nowhere to be found, not even in warmups with a towel hollering at teammates. Head Coach Bill O'Brien assured everyone it was just a routine day off for J.J., nothing to be worried about. Wednesday, Watt was in pads and went through every single drill and scrimmage with no constraints, which was unfortunate for Kendall Lamm and Chris Clark, who continually had to go against him one-on-one, and were repeatedly steamrolled and rag-dolled. J.J. Watt is back.
2. Will Fuller has a broken collarbone
The injury occurred during an 11-on-11 drill, as Tom Savage lofted a ball downfield to Fuller, who had to twist around to try to catch it, had the ball bounce off of his hands and then had a defender land on top of him. Fuller's right clavicle snapped and he will now be out two to three months. This was a fairly devastating blow for a few reasons. First, Fuller NEEDED this training camp to continue to improve as a receiver. He is far from refined, and the Texans have a major investment in him. Second, Fuller's top end speed is a unique trait for this roster, and will be missed. Finally, receiver is not a deep position on this team. It's one of several positions where the whole "next man up" thing is very precarious. (My prediction for who makes the 53 man roster — DeAndre Hopkins, Braxton Miller, Jaelen Strong, Wendell Williams, Riley McCarron.)
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3. Deshaun Watson is making a run at the starting QB spot
I've been here two days and if you asked me which quarterback looks more ready to start an NFL game and give the Texans the best chance to win, to me, it's clearly Watson. Granted, he is going against mostly second-team defenders, but he is also playing with mostly second-team offensive teammates. The bottom line is that Watson has flashed some skills that I'm virtually certain Savage doesn't have, specifically maneuverability outside the pocket, and an ability to make strong, accurate throws on the move, going right or left. Also, the criticisms of Watson's arm strength when he was coming out of the draft appear to have been phony over-scouting, to me at least.
4. Watson is not the only rookie showing up
Inside linebacker Zach Cunningham has had two solid days of practice, although the coaches are riding his ass like Zorro (probably a good thing; means they really want to see him contribute early). D'Onta Foreman is struggling a bit with some of the things he wasn't asked to do much in college, specifically special teams and pass protection. However, he's run the ball very well (clearly, one of the two best backs carrying the football on this team), and he made a nice catch on a slant route on Wednesday, which was good to see, considering he caught about a dozen balls in his whole career at Texas.
If you're wondering when the boiling point is at which guys are the proverbial "sick of hitting our own teammates, we need to hit other guys!" for the 2017 Texans it appears to be Practice No. 7. There were two flare-ups on Wednesday, with Kevin Johnson and Braxton Miller touching off the fireworks. Ultimately, O'Brien made everyone (including himself, for losing control of his team) take a lap.
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