HOUSTON – At Thursday’s practice, the first practice open to fans, the big moment came with the team going 11-on-11 on the field directly in front of the fans.
The defense came up three big plays that drew oohs and aahs from the fans. The first play came when J.J. Watt rushed off the right edge against Seantrel Henderson. Watt got by him and was all over Deshaun Watson -– or at least as much as one can be with Watson in his customary red practice jersey. Watt batted the ball out of Watson’s hand, gently.
The second big play from the defense was turned in by second-year safety A.J. Moore who picked off a pass coming across the middle of the field and flashing right by the fans before gliding out of bounds.
The third big play was the second interception of Watson on a tipped ball that was corralled by rookie safety Austin Exford. Even though he was about 70 yards from the end zone, Exford returned the ball all the way to the end zone, along the sidelines peppered with fans, who loved every second of the return.
Three things to know
Rookie offensive lineman Tytus Howard did not practice for the first time during training camp. “Just a little bit of a day off. A little banged up, nothing serious. He’ll be back out on Saturday,” head coach Bill O’Brien said.
Center Nick Martin and tight end Jordan Thomas did not practice again Thursday. Neither did DeAndre Carter, who remains on the active/physically unable to perform list.
It wasn’t just fans at the Texans open practice, family and friends of the players lined the back of the end zone to catch the morning session. For new backup quarterback A.J. McCarron, it was an opportunity for his wife Katherine, and their two sons, Cash and Tripp, to see him work with his new team in their new city.
Numbers to know:
That’s the number of College Football National Championships for the Texans' top two quarterbacks. Deshaun Watson won a national title in his final season at Clemson, beating McCarron’s alma mater (Alabama) in the college football playoff championship game, 35-31. McCarron quarterbacked Alabama to the top spot in college football following the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Bama beat LSU 21-0, in the 2012 BCS title game. The following season they beat Notre Dame, 42-14 for the BCS crown.
The number of Texans from the state of Texas – the most of any state on the roster. WR Floyd Allen (Houston), WR Keke Coutee (Lufkin), NT Javi Edwards (Houston), OLB Duke Ejiofor (Houston), RB D’Onta Foreman (Texas City), FB Cullen Gillaspia (Katy), S Tashaun Gipson Sr. (Dallas), DE Charles Omenihu (Houston), CB Bradley Roby (Fort Worth) and DE Ira Savage-Lewis (Houston).
Veteran linebacker Benardrick McKinney on having the first open practice in front of the fans: “It's definitely fun just seeing fans here to support us. We've got to try to give them a show and just try to give them what they want and start winning games. Most definitely, seeing the fans here gives us energy. Even home games, because this is a lot of energy. We have great fans that support us, and like I said, we just try to give them a show to see.”
Head coach Bill O’Brien on the first open practice: “I thought it was OK. I mean, look, I think that we were indoors yesterday and there’s a big difference between being indoors and outdoors. I thought it started off a little slow but it picked up there at the end and guys were fighting through. We have good guys. They fight through it. It’s great to be out here with the fans. That always adds an element of excitement to our guys. When they came in this morning, we talked about this being the first public practice and how much it means to our fans to have us out here in front of them. It was exciting to have the fans out here.”
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