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Friday, August 9, 2013
Observation deck: Texans-Vikings

By Tania Ganguli


When Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates threw up what seemed to be a jump ball, the ensuing play revealed exactly why the Texans loved DeAndre Hopkins in this year's draft.

Well covered by Minnesota defensive back Bobby Felder, Hopkins leaped, secured the ball, then came down with his first NFL touchdown.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak often says that Hopkins is at his best on contested catches. It's something he thrives on during practices when the Texans' starting cornerbacks don't give him much room.

Even better for the Texans was that the touchdown play came very shortly after an uncharacteristic drop by Hopkins. He wasn't happy with himself for that play, but didn't let it linger long.

A few more observations from Friday night's game:
  1. I wrote earlier today that quarterback Case Keenum struggled in Wednesday's practice and my feeling was the backup quarterback job was Yates' to lose. That wasn't a feeling based on just that practice, of course. While I still think Yates is ahead, Keenum had a really nice game in Minnesota. On Twitter, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle suggested Keenum should be first off the bench next week against Miami. It's a good point. Keenum looked good, but he did it against worse players than Yates did. Flipping the two to see how Keenum does against second-string defenders could allow a more accurate assessment. Against the Vikings, Keenum completed 13 of 18 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. Yates completed 13 of 21 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.
  2. Earl Mitchell will take over as the Texans' starting nose tackle this season, and if tonight was any indication, the Texans are getting a serious upgrade at the position. Mitchell, another player in a contract year, led the team with four tackles in the first quarter, three of them for loss and one of which was a sack. He was constantly in the backfield early in the game.
  3. The Texans' punting and kicking on Friday was greatly improved, even though Andrew Shapiro, not Shane Lechler, did the punting. Shapiro's second punt was downed inside the 10-yard line. Coverage, however, struggled at the start of the game when Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff 50 yards.
  4. The Texans don't do live tackling in practice, and at times it showed. A short pass by Vikings backup Matt Cassel turned into a 61-yard touchdown catch by Zach Line when three different Texans defensive backs missed tackles.
  5. Minnesota's first series ended with Houston safety Shiloh Keo intercepting a Christian Ponder pass. Keo has had a good training camp, but the players who made that interception happen were two linebackers fighting for a starting role: Joe Mays and Darryl Sharpton. Sharpton broke through to pressure Ponder as he released the ball, and Mays disrupted receiver Jerome Simpson's route. The pass bounced off Simpson and into Keo's arms.
  6. Running back Cierre Wood helped himself. The undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame came into Friday night's game second to Dennis Johnson in the battle to be the Texans' third running back. Wood had 10 carries for 59 yards, including a 20-yard run. Johnson had seven carries for 11 yards, though he had four carries for 14 yards in the first quarter.
  7. Oh, and the Texans won 27-13. Don't care? Good. You shouldn't.