Texans OTA takeaways: DaeSean Hamilton to have knee surgery, Justin Britt injured, Christian Harris stands out

The latest from the Houston Texans OTAs, including news on Derek Stingley Jr., DaeSean Hamilton, Justin Britt, Christian Harris, and more.

HOUSTON — Houston Texans reserve wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton injured his right knee Tuesday morning during a non-contact drill while running a route at an organized team activity and will undergo surgery Wednesday to repair a fracture, according to league sources.

Hamilton didn’t tear his anterior cruciate ligament and is expected to make a full recovery at some point this year.

Hamilton’s leg gave out while he tried to cut during a route, and he grabbed his right knee before he was carted off the practice field after his teammates came over to console him.

Houston Texans’ DaeSean Hamilton, Justin Britt injured at OTAs

It appeared to be a serious injury for Hamilton, who signed a one-year, $1.06 million contract in March.

Hamilton missed the entire season last year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered while training away from the Denver Broncos’ facility. The former fourth-round draft pick from Penn State was nearly traded to the San Francisco 49ers last year before he got hurt.

Hamilton, 27, has caught 81 career passes for 833 yards and five touchdowns in 46 career games. He caught 23 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns in 2020 before suffering the injury in 2021.

Hamilton is the Nittany Lions’ all-time receptions leader with 214 catches and finished third all-time with 2,842 receiving yards. He was a four-time academic All-Big Ten Conference selection. He was a second-team All-Big Ten Conference selection.

Meanwhile, veteran starting center Justin Britt injured his left ankle during drills when he got stepped on. After taking off his cleats, Britt was able to walk off the field under his own power without much of a limp.

“One was a non-contact injury. The other, you know when you have 22 bodies out there every once in a while you step on someone,” Texans head coach Lovie Smith said. “Hopefully, it’s nothing serious for either one.”

Jalen Pitre continues to impress

When the Texans drafted hard-hitting Baylor safety Jalen Pitre in the second round, he immediately emphasized that he models his game after veteran safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker.

Those are good role models to emulate for Pitre, who’s signed to a four-year, $8.95 million contract and was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season.

During the Texans’ organized team activities, Pitre has been a standout as he’s displayed range, speed, and instincts.

“Pitre, for one, he’s been outstanding,” Smith said. “Knack for the football. Has done a lot of good things.”

A first-team All-American last season, Pitre led Baylor with 18 tackles for loss. He posted three sacks, 76 total tackles, two interceptions, seven pass breakups, and three fumble recoveries. Pitre had 60 tackles as a junior and was an All-Big 12 selection with 60 tackles (13 for loss), two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns), and 2 1/2 sacks.

Pitre lined up as a hybrid linebacker-safety in a position called the Star in a 4-2-5 defense under Baylor head coach Dave Aranda after Matt Rhule was hired by the Carolina Panthers.

“Tyrann Mathieu is definitely No. 1 on my list of players I try to model my game after,” Pitre said. “I try to take different things from his game to add to mine. His versatility, his knack for being around the ball, his instincts, they’re all things I try to add to my game. I try to mix in some Budda Baker as well. You hit it on the head with the two players I try to model my game after.”

The Texans like Pitre’s aggressive, fired-up style of play and his versatility. He has played free safety, strong safety, and nickel.

“He plays with his hair on fire,” Texans general manager Nick Caserio said. “Versatile player. They used him a little bit inside in the slot. He played safety, so he has some position versatility. I think he might have a role in the kicking game. Tough, instinctive football player, loves playing football. His energy was infectious when he was in the building.

“I would say Jalen falls in the category of embodying the types of people and players that we want to have in this building. Kind of their vigor and joy playing football. You see it in the way that he plays.”

The secondary made some strides Tuesday as Pitre knocked away a pass intended for second-year tight end Brevin Jordan. Safety Grayland Arnold and cornerback Kendall Sheffield also made some big plays and showed a nose for the football.

“They are getting better,” Smith said. “You had different guys making plays. Defensively, you have to show up. It’s just not about covering and tackling. It’s about taking the ball away.

“We’re able to get the ball away through there and punching the ball out quite a few times today. That’s good, in my defensive coordinator role. In my head football coach’s role, it’s not a good thing. It’s about ball protection, security, all of those things.”

Christian Harris praised for versatility

Texans rookie linebacker Christian Harris has already shown the ability to play more than one position.

The third-round draft pick from Alabama — a converted safety who had three sacks, four tackles for loss, and a forced fumble in a national championship game loss to Georgia — has worked with the first-team defense during organized team activities.

Signed to a four-year, $5.34 million contract that includes a $1.069 million signing bonus, Harris is 6-foot, 226 pounds and has run the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds. He had 80 tackles last season, including 12 1/2 tackles for loss, with 5 1/2 sacks. He also had two forced fumbles and was a semifinalist for the Butkus and Lombardi awards.

“You saw Christian Harris was out there with the ones a lot of the day,” Lovie Smith said. “The young rookies are progressing the way we want them to.”

Andre Johnson’s impressions of rookie class

Retired All-Pro wide receiver and Hall of Fame candidate Andre Johnson visited practice Tuesday morning along with several other former players.

Johnson is encouraged by the Texans’ rookie class, including first-round cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.

“I got a chance to talk to Stingley and I was just telling him about how their rookie class can do something special and change the organization because of what’s happened here the last couple of years,” said Johnson, who was joined at practice by fellow retired Texans players Chester Pitts, Fred Weary, Wade Smith, Jonathan Wells, and Kailee Wong.

“It’s just on him, putting in that hard work holding each other accountable. It’s kind of like when I came here the second year of the team and it was a challenge I took and I wanted to help this organization get to the playoffs. I took the challenge and made it happen.”

Rookie wide receiver John Metchie III, a former Alabama standout who’s making steady progress in his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the SEC title game, is a talented young player that Johnson watched in college.

“I got a chance to talk to him after practice,” Johnson said. “I watched him a lot in college. I was super excited when they drafted him. He’s a great player, great route runner. He had a great season at Alabama. Those guys run great routes, fast. I think he’ll fit in well.”

Does watching practice make Johnson miss playing football at age 40?

“Hell no,” Johnson said with a laugh. “I love watching it. I gave the game everything I had.”

Derek Stingley Jr. working at different pace

The Texans are taking a cautious approach with first-round cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., the third overall pick of the draft.

Stingley dealt with a Lisfranc foot injury last year, so the Texans are holding him out of full-team drills. He has been working on the side after conducting individual drills. The goal is for Stingley to play a full season and not have any medical setbacks.

“Great guy, very talented, hence why he got drafted where he got drafted,” veteran corner Steven Nelson said. “I think he’s going to do some great things here whenever he gets rolling.”

A former starter with the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Kansas City Chiefs, Nelson is one of the most experienced players on the defense. He has eight career interceptions.

Coming to a team that has gone 8-25 the past two seasons, Nelson hopes to impart knowledge and help establish a winning culture.

“It’s going really well right now,” Nelson said. “Leadership, experience, just being a guy that’s been there, been out there on playoff teams, and just being in that atmosphere. As you know, we have a lot of young talent on the team, so just kind of being able to be there and lead by example as much as I can.”

“I think I can show my leadership and just try to show my professionalism as what that looks like, what it takes to reach that level. So, whatever I can do to help, you know what I mean.”

Defining role for Rasheem Green

The Texans’ overhauled defense has made several changes this offseason.

That includes signing former Seattle Seahawks defensive end Rasheem Green, 24, to a one-year $3.25 million contract.

Green (6-foot-4, 279 pounds) recorded a career-high 6 1/2 sacks last season and joined the Texans after visiting the Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Green is expected to compete with Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, and Jon Greenard for one of the top defensive end spots.

“He’s a big body, long, good size, good ability,” Smith said of Green, who has 88 career tackles and 13 1/2 sacks. “He’s a tough guy. Smart guy. You know, everything that you look for without pads, we’ve seen him do. He’ll be in the mix for us. He’ll have a role for us this coming year. I feel pretty confident making that statement.”

Reflecting on Romeo Crennel’s career

Veteran assistant Romeo Crennel retired this week after a legendary coaching career that spanned five decades.

Crennel coached or operated in a personnel role for the past eight years for the Texans.

The former Texans’ interim head coach, defensive coordinator, and associate head coach, and head coach of the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, announced his retirement Monday morning. Crennel won five of six Super Bowls he participated in, earning championships twice with the New York Giants and three times with the New England Patriots.

He was a part of 17 playoff teams, 13 division winners, and six conference titles. Crennel won a lifetime achievement award for his work as an assistant coach in 2020 from the Pro Football Writers of America.

“I got a chance to be around Romeo quite a bit in a different role when he was more of an analyst position last year, whole wealth of knowledge and not just on football, but on how he treats people,” Smith said. “Anybody that’s played for him, they all say the same thing about him. When you’re done, you want guys to feel like helped you grow as a man, that’s definitely the case and of course as a football player.”

Phillip Dorsett in mix for playing time

A former Indianapolis Colts first-round draft pick, veteran wide receiver Phillip Dorsett is in the mix for playing time after joining the Texans last season.

He was placed on injured reserve after catching seven passes for 110 yards in six games. Dorsett, who’s signed through this season to a deal that includes a $100,000 signing bonus and $200,000 of his $1.035 million base salary guaranteed, is one of the fastest receivers on the roster. He’s run the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds.

“One of the fastest guys on our team, has good movement,” Smith said. “And you know, I talk to Phillip an awful lot about when you’re from the University of Miami, and you wore No. 4, I mean, I know one great player that wore it. Devin Hester wore that number.

“So, I’m always giving him a little bit of flak on that. But he has ability, he can catch the ball and he’ll make you miss in the open field. The only thing that’s stopped some of his growth in the league has been injuries. But he’s out there right now, if we can keep him healthy, he’ll help us a lot.”

Inside slant: Right offensive tackle Tytus Howard returned to practice after missing last week when his wife, Chelsea, gave birth to a son named Tytus Jr. … Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil was absent from the voluntary organized team activity. Tunsil is expected to attend the Texans’ mandatory minicamp next week, according to a league source. … Smith said the Texans are likely to have fullback Andy Janovich on the roster. “We have a fullback, odds are we’ll have a fullback on our roster, so it was a commitment to the run,” he said. “With a commitment to the run, you need running backs and we feel like we have a few that can play.”

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