O’Brien hopes progress ex­tends to camp

Houston Chronicle - - PRO FOOTBALL - Aaron Wil­son

With a whis­tle blown and a quick hud­dle, the Tex­ans wrapped up their fi­nal or­ga­nized prac­tice of the off­sea­son.

In­stead of go­ing the al­lot­ted three days of field work for a manda­tory mini­camp, Tex­ans coach Bill O’Brien will have the play­ers come in for meet­ings Thurs­day be­fore dis­miss­ing them from for­mal work un­til train­ing camp in late July.

It was a pro­duc­tive off­sea­son, by all ac­counts.

Play­ers like quar­ter­back De­shaun Wat­son got back on the prac­tice field after sea­so­nend­ing in­juries in 2017. And O’Brien and his staff con­tinue to in­stall an of­fense tai­lored to­ward Wat­son’s dual-threat ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“I think we ac­com­plished a lot for what we were able to do out here — in the class­room, in the weight room and in the cafe­te­ria,” O’Brien said. “The guys have re­ally done a good job of un­der­stand­ing what we’re try­ing to get done, and I be­lieve we’ve laid a good foun­da­tion for train­ing camp.”

The Tex­ans have re­peat­edly praised new strength and con­di­tion­ing coach Luke Riches­son for the work he has done at im­prov­ing the play­ers’ fit­ness and nu­tri­tion.

O’Brien in­tends to em­pha­size again to the play­ers in a meet­ing the im­por­tance of not los­ing the progress they’ve made be­fore re­port­ing to train­ing camp at The Green­brier in West Vir­ginia on July 25.

“I think we’ve made so many gains rel­a­tive to their con­di­tion­ing level and their strength lev­els,” O’Brien said. “What I’ll rec­om­mend to them is to keep it go­ing. A lot of guys will stay here and train here, which is a good thing. The guys that don’t, they’ll be ready to go. These guys are pros. They know how to get ready, but we’ve made a lot of gains and we need to keep that go­ing for the next five weeks.

“We’ve been go­ing at this for nine weeks and it’s re­ally im­por­tant for these guys to con­tinue to, ob­vi­ously, work out, stay in shape, work on the things that we ask them to im­prove on com­ing out of this camp. Eat right and just be ready to go on July 25th.” For­mer base­ball pro Akins im­presses

When the Tex­ans drafted Cen­tral Florida tight end Jor­dan Akins in the third round, there were spe­cific things they liked about the for­mer Texas Rangers mi­nor lea­guer.

They were en­am­ored of Akins’ ath­leti­cism, size and hands. And they liked his ma­tu­rity as a 26-year-old rookie and for­mer pro­fes­sional base­ball player.

The Tex­ans be­came fa­mil­iar with Akins’ skills and per­son­al­ity when they coached him at the Se­nior Bowl All-Star game, gain­ing knowl­edge about him as a prospect.

So far, Akins has been as ad­ver­tised dur­ing off­sea­son prac­tices.

“No doubt, he’s a good ath­lete,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s a big guy that can run. He’s a smart guy.

“I don’t think there’s any ques­tion about that. He’s got good quick­ness for a guy his size, and, like I said, he’s an in­tel­li­gent guy.” Ervin med­i­cally cleared to re­turn

Tex­ans run­ning back and kick re­turner Tyler Ervin has been cleared med­i­cally in ad­vance of train­ing camp.

Placed on in­jured re­serve with a torn patel­lar ten­don that re­quired surgery to re­pair the dam­age last sea­son, the for­mer fourth-round draft pick from San Jose State is en­ter­ing his third NFL sea­son.

Ervin got hurt dur­ing a punt re­turn in the first quar­ter of a 57-14 win over the Ten­nessee Ti­tans

Ervin caught eight passes for 38 yards and rushed for 12 yards on four car­ries in four games last sea­son.

Ervin is play­ing un­der a four-year, $2.9 mil­lion con­tract.

He has 677 ca­reer re­turn yards. And the next stop: The Green­brier

The Tex­ans’ next road trip is to West Vir­ginia.

For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, the Tex­ans will hold train­ing camp at The Green­brier.

The Tex­ans signed a twoyear con­tract with an op­tion for a third year last year. They are the sec­ond NFL team to camp at The Green­brier with the New Or­leans Saints pre­vi­ously hav­ing their camp there.

Train­ing away from Hous­ton in mod­er­ate weather at a nice fa­cil­ity and build­ing team chem­istry are the pri­mary pluses about the ex­pe­ri­ence. It didn’t trans­late to more wins, though, as the Tex­ans, largely be­cause of in­juries to key play­ers, fin­ished 4-12 last sea­son and in last place in the AFC South.

“We re­ally like The Green­brier,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “It gives us a chance to get away. I think it was good last year for the team bond­ing. Ob­vi­ously, it didn’t lead to the suc­cess­ful sea­son that we all want, but we felt like we came out of there with some good chem­istry, with guys feel­ing good about their roles on the team and The Green­brier it­self is a great place.

“We won’t be there as long this year. We’re go­ing to come back to Hous­ton right after Kansas City to be­gin to get ready for San Fran­cisco. We’ll scrim­mage San Fran­cisco out here when they ar­rive in town, but we’re look­ing for­ward to go­ing to The Green­brier.”

Brett Coomer / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

A for­mer Texas Rangers mi­nor lea­guer, rookie tight end Jor­dan Akins has wowed the Tex­ans’ staff with his abil­i­ties and in­tel­li­gence dur­ing mini­camp.

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