Thu, 17 Jun 2021

Notes and Quotes from Texans Assistant Coaches

Houston Texans
09 Jun 2021, 19:02 GMT+10

Deepi Sidhu

The Houston Texans assistant coaches met with local media via Zoom on Tuesday during the team's third week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). Here are some highlights from the two-hour media session which was divided into offensive and defensive/special teams sessions.

Offense: Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly spoke about the three quarterbacks currently at OTAs, Tyrod Taylor, Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel and the similarity in skill set.

"All three of the quarterbacks that we have in the room right now are capable athletes and are able to not only hurt the defense with their arm, but with their legs, too," Kelly said. "So we're going to continue to to look to stress defenses any way we can. And, you know, again, all three of their skill sets can offer us the ability to do so."

The running back room is the opposite, from David Johnson, Mark Ingram II, Phillip Lindsay, Buddy Howell, Scottie Phillip, Rex Burkhead and Dontrell Hilliard, with each back bringing a different style to the game.

"You know, you look at the guys that we brought in, Nick (Caserio) has done a great job of adding depth to the room, competition to the room," running backs coach Danny Barrett said. "And again, you are talking four guys with the experience, plus the younger guys that we have with Scottie, Buddy and Dontrell as well. So experience is the key so we don't have to deviate from the game plan, whoever is on the roster going in week in and week out."

Kelly said the Texans will continue to find ways to become more effective at running the ball. Personally, he plans to do a better job of calling more running plays to let the backs and offensive line get more into a rhythm.

"It's been around forever for linemen, it doesn't matter if you're in high school ball or you're a professional, running the football's an attitude," offensive line coach James Campen said.

Campen said offensive lineman Justin Britt was "one of the best centers in football until he got hurt." Britt, who played six seasons (2014-19) with the Seattle Seahawks, is excited to get back to work. Two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil is "a very, very gifted player," Campen notes.

"He allows you to do some things on the backside of the quarterback and he allows you to do some other things to be able to create matchups and those things for other players," Campen said.

Passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton worked with Taylor last year during their time together with the Los Angeles Chargers. He says Taylor was "a tremendous asset" to then-rookie Justin Herbert as well as all the players in the Chargers organization.

"He's also just a natural leader and a great example of what it is to be a pro here in our building here in Houston," Hamilton said. "So the consistency in which he prepares himself to be able to go out and play winning football is something that you notice from Day One."

Hamilton had also followed the career of Mills, the rookie quarterback from Stanford, for many years. He along Stanford head coach David Shaw, Hamilton's friend and former colleague, often discussed Mills. He believes Mills' ability to make checks at the line of scrimmage and call plays can only help him as a decision maker in the NFL. Wide receivers coach Robert Prince liked rookie Nico Collins' size, speed, physicality and his large catch radius coming out of Michigan. Veteran receivers Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks have been leaders of the wide receivers group. Cooks demonstrates the right way to practice, asks questions in meetings and Cobb has great input and helps the younger players. Under Prince, the wide receivers have been working on different techniques this offseason which has taken some adjustment for the position group.

"What's great about this time of the year is you can slow things down and really work on those techniques," Prince said. "I mean, we're really working on whether it's stance and starts, releases, the stem of the route, the break down or the catch and some of the blocking things that we're doing are a little bit different than they're used to. But it's been great."

Defense: Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith said a lot of the college aspects of football are now in the NFL, such as run-quarterback focused offenses, something that was not as prevalent the last time he coached in the NFL. However, the key points of a good defense are still the same.

"In the end, it's still about getting off blocks, tackling defensively finding a way to take the ball away, to be good on third downs, play a physical brand of football that's not going to ever change," Smith said.

Changes that players will have to adjust to will be the new positions in the front-seven with the Texans transitioning from a 3-4 base defense to a 4-3 system. Smith said football players are adaptable. When when asked about defensive linemen Jacob Martin and Jonathan Greenard, who lined up as linebackers last year. Smith expects the change to suit their skillsets.

"I know Jonathan and Jake both fit our profile for what we play with at the defensive position," Smith said. "They have both look really good in the offseason workouts that we've been able to work with and we're really excited about their futures and I can say that about a lot of our young football players. They have been eager, eager to learn, showed up on voluntary workouts quite a bit and I've seen marked improvement from Day One."

Smith's defense requires a lot from its linebackers.

"What we're looking for is a skilled athlete," Smith said. "You know, nowadays, linebackers have to do more than just tackle. They need to be able to play in space. They need to be able to play man coverage on, you know, seem like the tight end position is getting better and better. That matchup can be a tough one, but we blitz. Our linebackers need to be able to play excellent zone coverage, man coverage and of course, make a lot of tackles. It takes a certain type of athlete to do that."

Safeties coach Greg Jackson believes that Justin Reid will thrive in the new defense. When watching his tape from last year, Jackson felt that Reid was thinking and communicating too much, rather than just focusing on playing free safety.

"I think in this system here, I think he's going to rise up and I think he's going to do some good things for us because this defense is simple," Jackson said. "But it's fast and it allows you to play football, and that's what we try to instill in our players, is that we're not going to make anything difficult for you."

Jackson also coached Reid's older brother, safety Eric, while the two were with the San Francisco 49ers. He said there were a lot of similarities between the two, but Justin is a faster, "new-age safety" while Eric is more of a bigger, more traditional safety. Jackson said that Lonnie Johnson has shown focus and concentrating during offseason workouts and shown improvement in his second season at safety.

"I think he's done a tremendous job at moving that to the safety position and start to understand how to take the proper angles as a safety," Jackson said.

Defensive line coach Bobby King said the transition from linebackers coach to defensive line coach has been a relatively easy one for him since that is where he has mostly coached and played.

"I've always been a d-linemen at heart," King said.

The biggest transition for linebackers moving to the defensive line is just having to put their hand in the dirt "a little more."

Whitney Mercilus told King that he hasn't put his hand consistently in the dirt since his junior year at Illinois. However, King said that Mercilus has looked natural on the field so far and hopes to see that progress continue.

Charles Omenihu brings versatility with his size and length and will be asked to do more in this defense.

"You can play him in a lot of positions and he can affect the quarterback in a lot of different ways," King said. "So that's the thing with Chuck. You know, we're telling him don't be a square peg in a round hole. We ask you to play three-technique, six-technique, five-technique, whatever he's up for and we expect big things from Chuck this year."

Cornerbacks coach Dino Vasso is excited about the experience and athleticism of the room this year. Learning the new scheme will be something all players will need to do, so it's no more of a challenge to new players than it is for veterans.

"The experience of Bradley Roby, a guy that has played a lot of football in his career experience is something that you can't teach, obviously and then Terrence Mitchell and Vernon Hargreaves are guys that have played over a thousand snaps last season, so excited about the experience at the top," Vasso said. "And we've got a bunch of young players that are athletic and have played some football in their careers as well."

Linebackers coach Miles Smith credits his father, Lovie, for mentoring him as a coach. Lovie used to bring Miles into the locker room and around his teams as a kid. Miles compares coaching to being a teacher, the subject being football.

"I do think there is an advantage to being around football, you know, and not being around football necessarily in a position of pressure," Smith said. "I've been able to sit back in the background and learn from some of the great coaches and players that have been around and it's definitely shaped me into who I am as a coach. Personality-wise, I would say I'm a little bit more laid back."

When asked who had the better beard, Miles said his dad did.

"Well, you know, his is a little bit whiter than mine is. You know, I know I think he definitely has me beat right now on the beard. But ask me again, in about six months."

Special Teams: Special teams coordinator Frank Ross said that while coaching with his previous teams, the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots, accounting for veteran All-Pro returner Andre Roberts was always a factor in the game plan.

"I think just watching the course of his career, especially in the kickoff and return game that he's had even as a ball carrier on offense, but especially the return game," Ross said. " Runs aggressively, attacks downhill, finishes runs as a returner and you just love to see that. I mean, playing against them multiple times in our past, he's been a spot that, 'Hey, this is an emphasis. We got to cover this guy.'"

The Texans signed fourth-year punter Cameron Johnston in March. Ross said the former Australian rugby standout brings versatility and a strong leg to the Texans punting game and will be a "tremendous asset to the punt unit." The kicking unit, led by veteran long snapper Jon Weeks and kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn, has been consistent and performing well this spring.

"Those guys are really our special teams unit," Ross said.

Texans OTAs will continue on Wednesday at the Houston Methodist Training Center.

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