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Practice Report: Houston Special for Phillips

Posted Nov 9, 2017

CB Trumaine Johnson and S John Johnson discuss the challenge of facing DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. On Sunday, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will face off against his former team, the Houston Texans.

The Rams held their second practice of the week on Thursday afternoon at Cal Lutheran. Los Angeles is gearing up to take on the Texans in a Week 10 non-conference matchup on Sunday. Check below for the top three takeaways from today’s session:

INJURY UPDATE

The Rams released their official injury report on Thursday after practice. Tight end Derek Carrier and outside linebacker Robert Quinn did not participate for the second-consecutive day with a hamstring and an illness, respectively.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, center John Sullivan and linebacker Mark Barron were limited during the session, but not for an injury-related reason.

Running back Malcolm Brown was held from this afternoon’s session after injuring his MCL in last weekend’s game against the Giants. Head coach Sean McVay told reporters after practice that Brown’s injury was “a high-grade sprain,” that fortunately “will not require surgery.” But McVay said the rehab process will require Brown to be out for the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, several other players will get the opportunity to step up in Brown’s absence.

McVay said the staff evaluated both running backs Lance Dunbar and Justin Davis during Thursday’s session. The head coach said that “one of those two guys we will look to get up,” but a decision not yet been made on who it will be.

TAKING ON THE TEXANS

On Sunday, the Rams will face a Texans offense that will be without its starting quarterback, Deshaun Watson. Watson underwent surgery for a torn ACL on Wednesday after getting off to an incredible start this season. The rookie signal-caller threw for 19 touchdowns and 1,699 yards in seven games.

With Watson out, quarterback Tom Savage has assumed control of the Houston offense. And while the team still boasts several dynamic playmakers, middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said Watson definitely “brought a different dynamic to the game.”

“Deshaun was a big part of the team in their offense and how they ran things,” he said. “[But] they still do some of the same stuff with Savage in there. We just have to continue to be us on defense and try to limit the run game, stop them from throwing the ball deep on us and just play our game.”

“He’s a helluva quarterback,” cornerback Trumaine Johnson said. “You know he’s a rookie but he’s been playing like a vet. But our mindset is the same. They still have some good receivers, some great receivers that are going to give us some tough matchups.”

Those receivers include both DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller — two players who represent one of the best wideout duos in the league. Hopkins currently ranks No. 3 in the NFL with 693 receiving yards and has scored eight touchdowns. Johnson said Hopkins is “a tremendous athlete” and someone he looked forward to going against come Sunday.

“He’s fast, a first-round pick,” Johnson said. “You could look at games and he’s been that dog out there, he really is. He has that it factor. A real good receiver and I can’t wait [to face him], I really can’t.”

Lining up on the other side of Hopkins will be Fuller, a Notre Dame product who has recorded 311 yards on 15 receptions with seven touchdowns.

“I played against him in college,” safety John Johnson III said. “He’s a fast guy and we just can’t let him get behind us that’s the biggest thing. He can catch the ball, but let it be in front of us so we can tackle him and I think we should be fine.”

“ANOTHER VENGEANCE GAME” FOR PHILLIPS

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will take on one of his many former teams on Sunday — a trend he has become very familiar with after 40 years in the NFL.

“Another vengeance game for me,” Phillips said jokingly after practice. “I think I’ve got three more left after this one, maybe four.”

The defensive coordinator has many ties with both the Texans and the city of Houston. Both he and his father Bum, a longtime NFL coach, began their careers in Texas and each worked for the Oilers in some capacity for a number of years.

Phillips began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston in 1969 after a three-year period as the team’s starting linebacker. He returned to the city in 1976, serving as the defensive line coach for the Oilers. Then after more than 20 years away, Phillips came back to Houston to serve as the Texans’ defensive coordinator, a role he held until 2013.

“Houston is my home and I coached there twice with the Oilers and with the Texans,” Phillips said. “I can’t say enough good things about Texans’ owner Robert McNair and his family there and how they treated me. It was a rough time for us, when my dad passed away there, and they were just wonderful to me. I will always appreciate that.”

While in Houston, Phillips helped the Texans win a franchise record 12 games in 2012 and make their second consecutive trip to the playoffs. But the following season, the franchise failed to improve upon that record and suffered a 14-game losing streak. When head coach Gary Kubiak was fired, Phillips took over as the interim head coach before leaving the organization to join the Broncos and then later the Rams.

Since then, under head coach Bill O’Brien, the Texans have gone on to become one of the top teams in the AFC South division, finishing 9-7 in each of O’Brien’s three seasons with the team.

“Bill O’Brien has done a great job. We left him kind of in shambles,” Phillips said. “[But] they’ve won the division a couple of times. And he’s done a really outstanding job with them.”