When Wade Phillips briefly took over the interim coaching role for Gary Kubiak earlier this season, the veteran defensive coordinator was just holding Kubiak’s spot.
This time, now that Kubiak has been fired, Phillips is in full control for the final three games of the disastrous 2013 season.
And Wednesday’s practice, the first full one under the new interim coach, was different.
“There were a few changes,” defensive end J.J. Watt said. “It was a good practice. We had a good practice. There was some good intensity.”
One of the biggest changes Phillips made on Wednesday was to the periods of practice. (Practices are broken up into several sections called periods.) Players explained that before, under Kubiak, the team would do a block of run plays, then a block of short yardage plays, and so on.
On Wednesday, Phillips shook things up. He had practice run more like a game, intertwining different types of plays. He even inserted special teams, now being overseen by Bob Ligashesky, into the normal practice routine. Under recently-fired Joe Marciano, special teams was on its own.
“We’ve made it more of a game situation,” Phillips said. “I can go into all of the changes, but some of them are subtle. Some of them are more, a lot different than they’ve done before. We put the special teams in during practice rather than before practice or after practice. I wanted to make it a game-type situation where they go offense, then they go defense, then they go special teams, then they have to come back out and do those things again. That’s part of what we did.”
Several players said they enjoyed the new type of practice and agreed that it gave practice more of a game feel. Ben Tate was one of them.
“Practice changed up a little bit. I liked it,” he said. “I liked it. We had fun today, music was going, people seemed a little less tense.”
Another aspect that changed on Wednesday and created a more game-like atmosphere was the addition of several officials to call penalties. Phillips said the officials were from the Big 12.
The Texans have struggled with penalties this season and had their worst game in that regard last Thursday against the Jaguars. Just when the problem seemed to vanish for a couple weeks, they racked up 14 penalties for 177 yards to set a team record. Phillips said it was “logical” to bring officials to the practice field on Wednesday.
“I think that was a good idea,” Tate said. “Because if you don’t work on it all the time, then how can you do it when it comes to the game?”
“Yeah, it never hurts to have extra sets of eyes out there to make sure that you’re doing the right things,” Watt said. “And they can tell you what they see. It definitely never hurts.”
Having officials on the field during practice isn’t completely unheard of. In fact, the Texans bring them in during training camp but this was the first time left tackle Duane Brown could remember them at an in-season practice.
Wednesday was the first full practice for the Texans (2-11) since former head coach Kubiak was fired on Friday and Phillips was named interim coach.
“I think we handled it,” Watt said. “We’re professionals and it’s our job to come here and go to work so that’s what we’re going to do. Like I said, I think we had a good practice today.”
-- Dave Zangaro, CSNHouston.com