Houston Texans OTAs: Takeaways from second open practice

Rhe Texans held the second open OTA for the media Thursday morning. It was the first opportunity to get pictures and videos of some of the biggest and newest names on the roster while they practiced with their new teammates.

Houston made their top two assistant coaches and two talented offensive veterans available to the media following the practice.

Here are the most interesting notes, nuggets, pictures and video from the practice.

Texans OTAs takeaways

Who returned to practice?

Defensive end Danielle Hunter, wide receiver Stefon Diggs, offensive guard Shaq Mason and quarterback Tim Boyle all returned to the voluntary practice session. It was the first look at Hunter and Diggs at OTAs for the media.  

Who didn’t practice?

Fullback Andrew Beck and interior offensive lineman Kendrick Green were at the session but weren’t dressed out or practicing. Other players not spotted during were:

  • linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips
  • linebacker Jake Hansen
  • cornerback D’Angelo Ross
  • linebacker Henry To’oTo’o
  • offensive tackle Tytus Howard
  • guard LaDarius Henderson
  • offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil
  • wide receiver Jaxon Janke
  • tight end Teagan Quitoriano
  • wide receiver Noah Brown
  • defensive end Ali Gaye
  • defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi
  • defensive end Dylan Horton
  • defensive tackle Khalil Davis
  • defensive end Derek Barnett
  • defensive tackle Denico Autry

There’s not an approved list on attendance — it was taken by hand and some players may have been at practice but missed. As far as I could see, those 18 players didn’t practice at the second OTAs open to the media.

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Big-3 WRs all practice

Stefon Diggs, Nico Collins and Tank Dell all practiced together for the first time with the media in attendance. Each has interesting storylines. It’s Diggs’ first practice with his teammates in front of the media. Collins is coming off a freshly inked three-year extension and spoke with the media after practice. Dell is returning from his 2023 injury and gunshot wound from a few weeks back.

Dell elevated late in practice along the sideline on a pass from Stroud. He gathered in the reception, checked his feet mid-air and tapped them down. Pads don’t go on until training camp and there’s no contact but as far as moving is concerned, Dell looked like his old self.

Diggs catching passes in drills from Stroud was the moment of visualization that fans had hoped to catch their first glance at since the trade went down to acquire the veteran receiver.

Collins spent some time during practice working off to the side with the Texans Director of Team Development, Dylan Thompson. Thompson played quarterback for the South Carolina Gamecocks before going undrafted and joining the 49ers. Thompson and Collins both joined the Texans in 2021. 

Each year, the pair could be seen off to the side working on different catching drills. Collins didn’t seem like a man changed by the new payday when speaking after practice. He was polite, extremely respectful and while excited, still reserved and professional. 

Collins didn’t seem like a man changed in the way he prepares, still diligently working his craft. If you were to pay a man the amount of money that Collins has coming his way, you’d hope the next time you saw him, that he acted and prepared the same way as before. Collins is the exact type of person you feel comfortable paying. 

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Cade Stover catch

It’s worth repeating that there’s not a ton to take away from the practices as far as deep evaluations. What’s worth watching are the “moments.” Diggs’s first catch in practice, Dell returning and shining after adversity and rookies developing with their coaches and teammates rooting on their successes.

Cade Stover is a fourth-round rookie tight end who is early in his development after originally playing defense in college. Fellow tight end Dalton Schultz spoke last week and mentioned that Stover was already picking his brain and Schultz was gladly sharing his knowledge with the rookie.

What people say and what they actually do are usually different. When they think no one is watching, that’s when you see their true identity. Stover caught a pass in practice and backed out of the play and away from the action, Schultz can be seen on video immediately raising his hands in celebration of the kid. 

A few feet away from Schultz and neither in direct eyesight of the other, offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik can also be seen celebrating Stover’s success. It bodes well for the rookie that he has a veteran at his position and an offensive coordinator who both genuinely want you to see him thrive. You come away from the day feeling even better about Stover’s potential to reach his ceiling.

Bobby Slowik comments

Slowik talked after practice and had several interesting things to say. One thing that stuck out was when he responded to how he would utilize so many skilled players, he named out the different types of matchups in games and how different personnel groupings can be utilized in each matchup.

Slowik said, “If it is a heavy 21-12 game, all our receivers are still out there working. You still go 11 on third down, you still go 11 in the red zone a good amount and we really believe in keeping all our guys fresh so that when they step on the field, they have 100 percent on the play.” 

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Slowik went on to say, “If it is a heavy 11 personnel game, then we have a lot of guys that can go fill that role, it could be a 10 personnel game, it really winds up sorting itself out through the course of the season.” He drove his point home with the statement that “it could be a 10 personnel game.” 

The first number in personnel groupings stands for the number of running backs on the play, the second number equals the number of tight ends. By saying they could have a 10 personnel game, Slowik is stating that the Texans could have a game this season in which they’re running an offense with one running back, zero tight ends and five receivers heavily throughout the contest. If it’s not hyperbole to drive a point home on the diversity of their looks, then Houston’s eight-deep of receiving talent would make a lot of sense. 

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Matt Burke comments

Defensive coordinator Matt Burke also spoke with the media today. One thing that he was asked about was the additions of cornerbacks Jeff Okudah and C.J. Henderson.

He gave an honest response by saying, “We obviously feel good about ‘Sting’ [Derek Stingley Jr.] holding down one of those spots, but we just wanted to bring in some guys to compete, and I thought that both those guys have talent, and our system fits from, schematically, what we want our corners to do.”

Burke would go on to finish up his thoughts saying, “But, they’re both long, they both can run, they’ve both played some football in the NFL. So, hopefully, the system helps get them there,”

The comments are telling as he laid out how he envisions the duo to thrive with the Texans and they mirror exactly what the speculation has been. Burke believes that due to the combination of Okudah and Henderson’s speed and length they can contain coverages for long enough with the defensive system lifting up their play. 

Given his comments on how Okudah and Henderson fit and why, Burke received a follow-up question concerning rookie defensive back Kamari Lassiter. The question concerned if Lassiter would be a fit on the outside as he lacks the length and speed that Burke had just described as scheme fits.

Lassiter is an undersized cornerback who lacks the desired 32-inch arms for the outside cornerback position and the speed as well. He’s best suited to play in the slot and could even move to safety later on. 

Lassiter measured with arms shorter than 31 inches and a wingspan shorter than 6-foot-2 with a 40-time in the 4.6 seconds. For comparison, Okudah has arms over 32.5 inches and a wingspan over 6-foot-6.5 inches with 4.4 speed. Henderson came in the fastest at 4.39 with arms just over 31.5 inches and a wingspan just shy of 6-foot-4.

Despite the obvious contrary measurements and times, Burke didn’t view it as true.

“He’s got length. He’s not a small corner. He’s actually really well-built through his lower body. He’s a pretty stout corner.”

Burke then went on to talk about how smart of a player Lassiter is and complimented his versatility before circling back and doubling down on the rookie defensive back’s length by saying in closing to the question.

“So, we’ll see where he kind of settles in most comfortably, but I wouldn’t call him a length-deficient corner.”

Lassiter may play on the inside, he may play on the outside, and he may move to safety one day. All of that is debatable. Lassiter not being length-deficient as an outside cornerback is just false. It’s not an opinion and has nothing to do with his lower body stoutness. It has to do with the length parameters for the position. Lassiter comes up short against the parameters. It doesn’t mean he can’t play outside cornerback, it does mean he lacks length… no matter how well-built, smart or talented.

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Joe Mixon comments 

First off – Joe Mixon is a tank. It was striking to see him out of pads in person. He’s built like a workhorse — an NFL back. 

Slowik mentioned during his press conference that Mixon could succeed in any running scheme. On Mixon, Slowik said, “It doesn’t matter what run scheme you run, he has run zone schemes, he has run gap schemes, he has been used as a receiver, he has really done everything.”

When it was Mixon’s turn to talk, you got the sense that Slowik planned to have Mixon do everything in his offense. Mixon was replying to a question about how deadly he’s been in the receiving game and the added element it brings to the Texans’ offense. He smirked and replied, “Happily with Slowik, I know for a fact that he’ll be using all of my skill sets. So I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

He delivered the words like a kid giddy with a secret that he wanted to share with the world.

*Note to self “Buy all of the Mixon fantasy stock.”

Nico Collins comments

Collins was asked about the feelings he was going through with the extension and what he would hope to accomplish next. His response was telling as he said, “I got to work on my game, continue to work on my game, work on my craft, work on myself. You know, continue to be a great teammate.”

On the field earlier in the day, Collins didn’t look like a changed man. He looked like Nico Collins, going to work to get better another day at a time. Later behind the microphone, he spoke like someone who achieved a lifetime goal and was humbled by it, not prideful. His words, his mannerisms and his actions on the day felt like someone who was still looking to ascend in his profession, rather than one ready to rest on their laurels.

Nico Collins makes excellent point


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