Houston Texans Day 3 Training Camp Notes: Brian Cushing, JJ Watt Talk Expectations of Defense

By Jeff Shull

It’s amazing how much less you retain when you’re busy taking pictures as I was at today’s practice, but I was still able to get some notes and see who’s improving.

Bum Phillips made a surprise appearance at today’s practice to watch his son coach the defense. Of course Oiler fans know who Bum Phillips is, and of course he was sporting the legendary cowboy hat on the sidelines.

Speaking of Wade Phillips, the defense seems to be coming along and getting better each day, but we’ll get our first taste of how good they can be when the team puts on full pads tomorrow.

One guy who’s been very impressive is backup nose tackle Earl Mitchell. Although he’s going up against the second team offensive line most of the time, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard defensive line coach Bill Kollar call his name in excitement.

Shaun Cody has the job, but he has to feel Mitchell nipping at his heels.

Brian Cushing was on the sidelines again for practice, he doesn’t know when he will return. One reporter asked him what he thought about people calling the Texans defense soft.

“First of all, we don’t listen to any of that because we know what we are. We also know we didn’t have a good year, and that’s something we know we’re going to come in here and improve drastically.”

He was also asked what his personal goals are, and it seems as if he has none and cares only about team accomplishments.

“Be 1-0 when it comes to playing Indianapolis, that’s as far as I can concentrate right now. [I need to] get back on the field and that’s what’s important to me. The team comes first.”

When asked when he was expected to return, and he thinks it’s going to come sooner rather than later.

“Any day. It’s just one of those things that we’re feeling out. We’re not going to rush it, we’re going to be smart about it, there is no point for a set back right now. The biggest thing for me is to be healthy and be ready.”

Cushing also had a good take on the situation with Phillips coming in and teaching the guys a new defense.

“I think everyone’s got to really pay attention, it’s almost like everyone on defense right now is a rookie with a new defensive coordinator and trying to learn everything. That’s just the situation we’re in right now and that’s something we’re going to have to improve upon but everyone’s listening and doing a good job.”

I also had a chance to listen to No. 11 overall pick JJ Watt answering questions, and it seems like he’s really ready to take on this challenge that is the NFL and make a mark on this defense.

One reporter asked him why he always seems to go 100 percent all the time during practice.

“I mean I try, that’s how you play the game of football you never know which play is going to be your last. I know that there’s millions and millions of people out there that wish they were in my shoes. They would be going full speed all the time so I better be going full speed all the time.”

On adjusting to Wade Phillips, Watt said “Obviously I played in a 4-3 at Wisconsin and it’s a 3-4 here so it’s a little bit different, but coach Phillips is giving us a good defense, I’ve had a lot of time to learn it. I actually feel comfortable out here, now I just need to get my footwork and my technique down and just play football.”

Watt participated in a little rookie hazing by carrying Mario Williams and Shaun Cody’s helmet back, I expect he doesn’t look forward to carrying their pads tomorrow.

He also mentioned how much he’s learning from the veterans and understands he has to earn their respect.

“I’m just trying to put my work in and earn their respect through my work ethic. I’m not trying to talk to much I’m just trying to keep myself quiet and just play football.”

It’s been just over three months since the Texans made Watt the No. 11 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and in that time many Texans fans voiced their opinion that the team should have went in another direction with the pick.

Watt holds no grudges against the fans for that, but wants to make sure they eat their words.

“It doesn’t weigh on me. I know a lot of people here in Houston were hoping for other draft picks. The job for me, is come February, I want them to look back and say ‘we made a heck of a choice’ and that’s all I can do is change their mind. My goal is to come out here and prove to these fans and prove to these coaches that I’m the guy that Houston needed, the guy that’s going to come out here and work my tail off to make this city proud.

From day 1 of camp, Watt came in as the starting left defensive end, and that’s where he has gotten most of his work. The expectations are very high, but from what I’ve seen so far he seems every bit capable of meeting those expectations.

Tomorrow should be even more fun as the free agents are finally allowed to practice, assuming the CBA is ratified, and the Texans plan on going full pads as well.

Game on.







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