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Bill O'Brien: Texans' QB competition unlikely to be decided at minicamp

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans chose their starting quarterback before minicamp last year.

That won't happen this year. In fact, Texans coach Bill O'Brien doesn't see himself deciding between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett at minicamp, either.

"I think that would be tough. I do," O'Brien said. "I think the way that these guys compete, the way that they practice, and the way that both of them have attacked each day. I don’t see either guy right now going out there and just totally separating himself from the other guy. I think both guys are good players and they’re very competitive, but you never know. If one guy goes out and just doesn’t have a great day and the other guy has a great day, not saying you’d make a judgment there right that day, but you’d have to take that into account. Right now, that hasn’t happened, so I don’t see that really happening."

In an interview with NFL Network's Mike Silver earlier this week, O'Brien said he was planning to choose the team's starting quarterback before training camp or very early in it. Doing so would, of course, ensure less air time for that competition on HBO's "Hard Knocks," a behind-the-scenes, documentary-style show that will follow the Texans during this year's training camp.

So we're narrowing the parameters.

O'Brien said Friday he sees starting ability in both Mallett and Hoyer.

We saw two practices this week during organized team activities, which accounted for half of the practices the Texans had. Hoyer played better than Mallett in both of those practices, though I'd stress that's only part of the picture.

In Friday's abbreviated practice, the last of the organized team activities, Hoyer threw two touchdown passes during 11-on-11 drills. One was a pass to tight end Garrett Graham in a red-zone drill. The other was during a two-minute drill that simulated a situation in which the offense needed a field goal to win and had no timeouts. He threw a pass to receiver Travis Labhart that cornerback Charles James tipped. Labhart caught the pass off the tip for what appeared to be a 60- or 70-yard touchdown pass.

It's a passing camp, as we've been told repeatedly, and that means the defense always knows the pass is coming.

"Right now I think for us as quarterbacks, when you know you’re throwing, the defense knows you’re throwing, there’s a lot of times in the games when that comes up, too," Hoyer said. "So you’ve got to go through your progression and read it out. I think it’s great; you get a lot of pass reps."

O'Brien said he might make the decision on the quarterbacks after the practices in Washington or after the first preseason game against San Francisco. What you gain then is the ability to see them play against another team and also the ability to see them in pads, when the run game becomes more of a factor.

"The offense is thinking pass all the time because there’s no pads on," O'Brien said. "Not just with quarterback, but with the defensive and offensive lines -- the jury is out on a lot of these, especially the younger players. Where are these guys at? That’s where training camp comes in when we can run the ball --how is our run defense, how is our run offense, how do the quarterbacks handle the running the game? I think part of that is in the thought process of making sure that we cover all our bases as it relates to all those things."