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August 1, 2008
Just Another Night in Paradise

by Keith Weiland

A scenario: I park in the Purple Lot in time to make the beginning of Thursday evening's training camp practice. It takes me awhile to get through the line to enter, and it wasn't just my fellow fans I stepped over to ensure I was first into the stands.

Oh no, I had to muscle my way past some former Broncos players in town and looking for work. It seems that our little secret of signing pretty much every Broncos castaway to the Texans roster has officially made its way through the Denver grapevine.

I'm not proud to admit that I may have fashioned my pen into a rather crude yet highly effective shiv. And this is not the sort of story I wish to pass down to my grandchildren, assuming that a man capable of making a shiv with available implements survives long enough to spawn such progeny capable of sitting through the yarn.

So I feel duty-bound to apologize to any former Broncos that might have caught the business end of my shiv. Honestly, you former Broncos are like weeds here, and the last thing I wanted tonight was to shiv one of you. I take one of you down, and I'll be damned if not two more show up to take your place.

Of course, thankfully, Mike Bell made onto the field. Signed by the Texans just hours before the evening practice, Bell was already on the field and looking pretty swift. Awesome. Chris Brown, you are officially on notice, sir.

To celebrate, I'm a-gonna kick it old school tonight with the timeline structure to this entry.

July 31, 2008
Evening Practice

6:45 - Players begin making their way onto the field, and NO ONE is wearing a freaking helmet. Or pads. Cripes.

In terms of watching anything on the field and making an evaluation, this is probably my worst-case scenario. It is, however, the best-case scenario if you're into checking out the various hairstyles and headgear favored by some of the players.

Most wear a hat if anything atop their head at all, but several of the players opt for a white headband, including Jacoby Jones, who is back on the field. David Anderson is wearing one, too, and it makes him look like the lead singer from Dire Straits. Inexplicably, Harry Williams is wearing a Texans ski cap. Hey fella, maybe there's a nice breeze tonight, but it is still July in Houston!! If I can't trust you to make the right decisions on what to wear, how can I possibly trust you to make the right decisions on the field?! Goodbye.

Travis Johnson is tops in my book though. I don't quite know how to describe the pony tail he has working on top of his head, but dude is still rocking the sweatpants. Now, I know what you're thinking. You think I'm being a little bit of a hypocrite here given my thoughts on Harry's ill-chosen headgear. I'm not. Travis and sweatpants go way back, and you gotta keep dancing with what brought you here. Trav - Keep on keepin' on, my man.

6:56 - The team splits up to walkthru kick coverage. Jones is the first to receive, followed by Tim Carter, Antwaun Molden, and Steve Slaton. Kris Brown, aided by a decent breeze, is kicking the ball to the back of the endzone regularly, totally screwing up this walkthru. Yes, Kris, we get it. You're a good kicker. Sheesh.

7:11 - Guys head off for some quick positional skill drills. I watch the defensive backs, because as you may recall, I love watching their feet. Molden has some sweet feet. Pretty much all of our safeties do not.

7:13 - Warm-up stretching.

So, this is a pretty boring part of practice, which allows my mind to drift when I see some poor kid is wearing a Tony Romo jersey. I can't help but wonder what Romo doodles in his playbook during team meetings. Should I be ashamed, lacking the discipline in letting my mind wander to Dallas? Maybe. I bet Romo practices signing his new name a bunch. Tony Romo-Simpson. Mr. Romo-Simpson. Yeah, I'm thinking he goes with the hyphenated version. Not many guys can pull that off. I don't think Romo-Simpson can either, but it's not like it's going to make him any less of a man in front of his teammates. I mean, come on, who are we fooling here anyway? Romo's manhood? I chuckle quietly to myself, desperately hoping the warm-up is nearly finished.

7:20 - Hooray. First team offense lines up for some light 11-on-11 work against the second team defense. Boo. This is yawn-city watching these guys go through the motions without pads and helmets. The players you'd expect are out there with the first team, going left-to-right on the O-line with Duane Brown, Chester Pitts, Chris Myers, Mike Brisiel, and Eric Winston. Ephraim Salaam seems to have the night off. Good for him. Ahman Green and Vonta Leach line up behind Matt Schaub in an I-formation with Owen Daniels at tight end and Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter out wide.

Schaub hits Walter across the middle, maybe a sign of things to come tonight. Schaub also connects on passes to Jones and Johnson, the latter getting deep on Brandon Harrison, who seems completely lost in coverage that far from the line of scrimmage. Schaub goes for some play action next, getting his pass batted down by Harrison since he isn't so far away this time. N.D. Kalu hopped offsides next, but rookie Brown moved, too. Call it encroachment. Schaub then finds a nifty David Anderson on a curl.

Baby Shan gives the playcall to Sage Rosenfels to run a double reverse with Jones and Darnell Jenkins. Nothing special comes of it. Rosenfels then executes a beautiful middle screen to Slaton, who has Kasey Studdard and Greg Eslingler to lead the play. Newly acquired Mike Bell then bursts onto the scene, running off right tackle and earning a welcoming round of applause from a well-informed fan base here in Houston (suck on it, SI's Peter King).

Shane Boyd, Alex Brink, and the third team work next with mixed results. Boyd throws a floater down the middle, sorta within spitting range to Ryan Krause. Brink throws a pretty ball... right at Kevin Bentley who makes the easiest interception in the history of interceptions.

11-on-11 play continues as Molden blankets Mark Simmons. Brink throws it anyway. Shocker! It was incomplete. Bell runs outside to the left this time, again, showing a nice bit of speed for a bigger back. Jamar Fletcher then makes the first of several good plays from him this evening, deflecting a pass from Boyd intended for Simmons. Demarcus Faggins, who is still sidelined with injury, ought to be getting a little more nervous right about now.

7:43 - More kickoff work. Carter mishandles his return and would have been toast in giving the team field position from the 2-yard line. Molden makes a couple nice, athletic returns. Perhaps the best of the night came from Anderson, though keep in mind Andre Davis didn't return anything.

7:53 - We're back to the 11-on-11 stuff, this time with the first team offense against the first team defense. Green makes a nice cutback run, then Walter receives the handoff on another reverse, snuffed out by Zac Diles. Schaub runs a little play action to Davis. Harrison is down on the near sideline getting his left ankle taped. A hamstring injury put him on injured reserve last year.

Schaub then gets a little off-kilter for the next few minutes of practice. He throws a floater to Walter which Jacques Reeves taps away. He misses on a deep ball to Davis, though Davis might have been interfered with by Fred Bennett. Later, Schaub is off-target to Walter on an 8-yard out, and he is visibly upset with himself.

Rosenfels comes in and overthrows Jones in the endzone. Jones had three guys trailing him in coverage, Glenn Earl, Jamar Fletcher, and Nick Ferguson. Oh boy. Slaton runs into traffic, namely Jeff Zgonina, the latter earning a fist bump from a teammate for stuffing the rook. Rosenfels then finds Anderson for a nice 20-yard reception. Anderson is having a terrific practice, not dropping anything.

8:09 - Time for some work near the goalline, first teams matched up once again. Davis makes a sweet inside-out double move to shake Reeves in coverage, catching a nice out pass from Schaub for the score. Schaub then finds Walter in the middle of the endzone as Demps isn't quick enough to step in front of the pass. Davis is then again on the receiving end in the endzone, beating Bennett in nickel coverage.

Backups start rotating into play, and Chris Taylor shows some wheels getting outside for a score. Rosenfels throws it a little high for Jones, who has the ball in his hands for a spectacular grab... before dropping it. Kubiak talks to him about it. Jones then gets the next pass thrown his way, and he comes down with it, but out of bounds. Brink comes in and makes a mess of things, overthrowing Krause, who's like two yards in front of him. Good news here is that Harrison is back on the field again.

8:19 - I said earlier that no one is wearing helmets, but Brisiel is wearing one, I guess to protect his nose. He and the rest of the first team is lined up on their own 30-yard line to start a two-minute drill against the second team defense. The sitch is this: offense is down 21-27, so a field goal does them no good, meaning 70 yards and paydirt in two minutes or bust.

First down, the team goes to the run, and Green gets a few yards. 2nd down, Schaub scrambles when he can't find an open receiver, no gain. On 3rd down, Schaub's pass goes to Darius Walker in the flat, who gains just minimal yardage but stops the clock at 1:17 to play. Crucial 4th-and-7 play, Schaub shows a little poise in stepping up in the pocket to calmly find Davis for a 17-yard gain.

With a new set of downs, Schaub again connects with Davis for seven yards to the 43-yard line. His 2nd down attempt is incomplete to Walter. On 3rd down, Fletcher makes an outstanding play to deflect another pass intended for Walter. With 37 seconds left on the clock, the Schaub-Davis connection again works for a new set of downs at the 36-yard line.

Schaub's next two attempts to Johnson are incomplete. The clock is now an issue, as only 9 seconds are left. Schaub tries one more time to connect with Johnson to the right, and it works! Johnson screams past the defender, Derrick Roberson, for a touchdown. Davis and others celebrate.

The second team offense gets a crack at the same two-minute drill next, facing the first team defense. Rosenfels finds Joel Dreesen on 1st down for an 8-yard gain, then he hits Jones for a 12-yard pass and a first down.

From midfield, Rosenfels completes to Anderson for fifteen yards, then he finds Anderson again, this time down near the endzone. Gary Kubiak steps in to rule Anderson down around the 7-yard line though.

With 59 seconds on the clock and a new set of downs, Rosenfels tries to find Jones, who can't control the catch in bounds. Jones then can't haul in the 2nd down pass. Reeves appears to have interfered with the play, but no penalty is called. On 3rd down, Morlon Greenwood comes clean on a blitz, and Rosenfels is lucky to even get the ball away. On 4th down, Rosenfels' pass is tipped incomplete, killing the drive.

8:38 - Team huddles for a speech from Kubiak. Afterward a bunch of players make their way to the sideline to sign autographs for the fans. I can't help but notice the Jeff Kent-wannabe pornstache that Owen Daniels is growing. Yikes, buddy. Salaam is the last to leave the field.

Without any hitting, it's pretty tough to draw any conclusions from the workout, especially from the linemen. The best news is that no one is nursing a serious injury outside of Dunta Robinson. Schaub didn't have his best night, but he pulled it together at the right time and did well spreading the ball around to his receivers. Rosenfels looked tactical moving the second team offense downfield. Bubble guys like Anderson and Fletcher really showed up to play, and Bell is going to be one to watch, too.

Who knows what the future may hold for Bell or any other former Broncos-soon-to-be-Texans-not-shivved-by-yours-truly, but this is easily the best team I have ever seen in camp. Easily.

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