Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Focusing on offense at Texans-Saints practice
By Paul Kuharsky
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
HOUSTON -- Lightning in the area forced the Texans and Saints inside for their second practice Wednesday. Bummer, I thought. It'll be cramped in there and we'll see them do far less.
But in terms of focus and watchability, it was actually better than the morning.
Outside of some special teams work, both teams drove the ball from just over midfield against the defenses for much of the practice. There was also a section of alternating possessions where the offenses tried to string together longer drives, at least some of which were 2-minute drills.
Some highlights and thoughts:
- Saints cornerback Randall Gay made a nice play in coverage of Jacoby Jones, prompting a fumble after a nice catch of a Dan Orlovsky pass. Side Judge Jeff Lamberth told the assistant coaches and players to in range of him on the sideline that Gay played it just right, that a hand on the back was not an issue because he wasn't clutching, twisting or pushing with it. Lamberth told me it was a catch and fumble.
- When the teams were driving the longer field, Matt Schaub was intercepted deep while aiming for Andre Davis but New Orleans' first-rounder Malcolm Jenkins, who sprinted with it for what would have been a return touchdown. The Texans defense answered back in a hurry, as Fred Bennett got under a less than great deep ball intended for Robert Meachem from Joey Harrington. The response produced some major hoots and hollers from the Texans along the sideline.
- Ryan Moats had a drop but got a lot of carries when the Texans handed the ball off and caught several check downs -- too many, I felt like, even some in seven-on-seven work. Chris Brown is lined up to be the primary compliment to Steve Slaton, but Moats got the bulk of that work in both practices Wednesday. He's a darter with potential, but on a team that needs a bigger back as the second guy, if the Texans have to turn to Moats I wonder if he doesn't qualify as more Slaton-Lite?
- Mark Brunell threw a TD pass to tight end Buck Ortega that linebacker Kevin Bentley could have deflected with a small move of his outstretched arm had he seen it sooner. It's the kind of play that could have had a different outcome had Ortega had to fear or absorb a shot that was lined up for more than one defender,
- Schaub was picked on a deep ball, but was not at fault. Owen Daniels couldn't pull it in, and when it bounced off his hands linebacker Scott Fujita snatched it.
- In seven-on-seven red zone work, Schaub twice hit David Anderson over the middle at the goal line. A bit later, he rolled right and -- intending to pump fake or changing his mind about throwing it and attempting to pull it down -- he let the ball slip out of his hand and fall awkwardly incomplete only a few yards in front of him.
- I watched backup quarterback Orlovsky closely during his snaps in red zone seven-on-seven, and he was 5-for-5 passing. I understand the take-what's-available approach, but only one of the throws came close to the goal line. The ball started at the 15-yard line and gradually moved a bit closer. He hit tight end Joel Dreessen on the left side at about the 5. He checked down to the left to running back Andre Hall, evoking a colorful reaction from Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who marveled at "a behind the line throw in seven-on-seven." He hit Jones at about the 5. He zipped a ball to rookie tight end Anthony Hill close to the goal line in the middle of the field. And after a long wait, he found Moats wheeling out of the backfield to the left flat.
So, for a team trying to get better at red zone production, the questions are: Is it good that Orlovsky was able to get the ball to targets, giving them a chance to make plays? Or should he be able to throw and complete at least a couple balls into the end zone in a drill that favors the offense?
- Orlovsky made maybe the best throw of the session near the end. I didn't get the distance, but it was mid-range at least, fit nicely over the shoulder of Jones who made a graceful catch near the front right corner of the end zone with Leigh Torrence and Usama Young late in coverage.
- Interesting the different defensive approaches: The Saints rip hard at the ball, trying to cause fumbles even at the risk, in a non-tackling setting, of putting themselves in bad tackling position. They also pick up every ball and run it back, even incomplete passes. Houston's defense slaps at the ball, but is generally more concerned with coming to balance and being sure to be in good tackling position. I don't know that one is better than the other, but there certainly are different philosophies at work.
- No Andre Johnson. They generally don't work him when they are inside on the turf.