By Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com
HOUSTON -- When he balked at the presumption by some that he was out of the Houston Texans quarterback battle, Ryan Mallett hadn't yet gotten his day.
It came instead on Sunday, when Mallett spent most of his day with the first team, just as Brian Hoyer had done the day before. In an early first-team offense vs. first-team defense session, Mallett completed six of nine throws. One of those six might have been a sack, but as sacks aren't allowed right now in training camp, Mallett got the ball out under pressure to Nate Washington.
Among the three incompletions, one was nearly intercepted by linebacker Max Bullough, who dove for it. It wasn't reaching a receiver one way or another. Another play was a win all around by the defense -- Mallett threw the ball with J.J. Watt's arm wrapped around his waist, running back Arian Foster dropped the pass and linebacker Brian Cushing essentially tackled Foster for good measure.
The day's crowd pleaser came on a deep throw from Mallett to DeAndre Hopkins -- a signature Hopkins one-handed touchdown catch. The throw was nice and the catch was, too. In fact Mallett had nice touch on several of his throws -- he had a good one that should have been complete to C.J. Fiedorowicz. (Aside: I wrote this offseason about how Mallett has worked on reining in his powerful arm.)
Especially early in practice, one difference I noticed from Saturday to Sunday was that Hoyer seemed to go for it deep more Saturday than Mallett did Sunday. Overall from Mallett I'd say it was one of the better days he's had that I've seen.
A few more notes from Sunday's practice:
Foster has looked good in training camp. He had a nimble play on a red-zone drill Sunday, hurdling one of the tackles to get into the end zone. He also caught a short pass and got through the first level of the defense.
One notable injury at practice Sunday: Sixth-round draft pick Reshard Cliett appeared to hurt his knee and was taken away from practice on a cart. Safety Lonnie Ballentine, who spent last season on injured reserve, was not practicing Sunday after suffering what looked like a leg injury Saturday.
After practice coach Bill O'Brien was asked about a rumor that Hoyer has been named the starter already. I haven't heard that rumor, but if it's out there, O'Brien dispelled it. "That would be absolutely untrue," O'Brien said. "Every play, every day is evaluated. These guys are very even. No decisions have been made."
Two pass catchers who had nice days besides Hopkins were receiver Cecil Shorts III and tight end Mike McFarland, an undrafted rookie out of South Florida. McFarland is a very big guy -- he's listed as 6-foot-5 but looks bigger. He was able to make some nice plays reaching over defenders.
Nose tackle Louis Nix made it all the way through Saturday's practice. He briefly stepped out of Sunday's practice with what looked like a bit of a heat issue. Overall, though, O'Brien has been pleased with what Nix has done. "I’m not sure what happened to him today, but he came back and passed the conditioning test, which is a big, big accomplishment for him," O'Brien said. "He’s worked very hard this offseason. I think if he keeps stringing days together where he can improve every day and get better, I think he’s off to a good start."
Chandler Worthy, Damaris Johnson, Keshawn Martin, Alan Bonner and Shorts have been among the players involved in kickoff and punt returns. That's a completely open competition.
And speaking of Martin, he made a leaping touchdown grab on a pass from third-string quarterback Tom Savage in a team drill while Mallett was running the opposite side of the field.
Full pads go on for Monday night's practice. Hooray!