The Texans wrap up their preseason campaign on Thursday night with a game against the Rams. Houston dropped both road contests this August, but was victorious at NRG Stadium two Saturdays ago versus Detroit. Here are five things to watch when the Texans face the defending NFC Champs on Thursday evening. First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.
1) Who shines?: You won’t see many, if any, starters on offense or defense Thursday night. Several key contributors that don’t start during the regular season, might also watch the Rams game from the sidelines. Therefore, this contest is an opportunity for several players to make a favorable last impression and solidify their spot on the team, catapult on to it or another squad once cuts are made over the weekend.
“There’s been several examples over the years of guys that played really well in the fourth game and made the team,” head coach Bill O’Brien said. “There’s also examples of guys that have played really well in the fourth game, over the years, that have been released by that team and then signed very quickly by another team onto their 53. So, I think it’s in everybody’s best interest to go out there and play as good as you can in this game.”
2) Who doesn’t play: If a healthy player doesn’t suit up and hit the field Thursday night for the Texans, more likely than not he’ll make the 53-man roster at the end of the weekend. Sure, the Deshaun Watsons and DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watts of the world have zero chance of seeing any action against the Rams. But there might be a few surprises in terms of players that don’t see action.
Of the 33 players who didn’t play last preseason in the finale against the Cowboys, all but three made the 53-man roster a few days later. So keep an eye on who doesn’t suit up, and you can all but count on them being on the team come Monday.
Ultimately, many roster decisions are affected by what a player can do in the third phase of the game.
“Special teams is a big deal, like are you keeping this many offensive linemen and does that mean that you can’t keep as many inside linebackers,” O’Brien said. “People think it’s just position, offense, defense, it’s really that side of the ball affects the other side of the ball, affects special teams and all decisions.
3) Running back spot: You won’t see Duke Johnson, Junior against Los Angeles. With Lamar Miller on injured reserve, the competition between Buddy Howell, Josh Ferguson, Taiwan Jones, Damarea Crockett and Karan Higdon is one worth watching. At times, each have shown flashes during the Texans preseason. Howell rumbled for 84 yards on 15 carries, and scored once in the win over Detroit.
That crew will all likely get their share of reps against the Rams, and what they do there and on special teams will play a role in whether or not they’re on the 53-man roster in the next few days.
“As you look at our running back situation right now, we have a good situation,” O’Brien said. “Anything can happen.”
4) Tight at TE: There are five tight ends currently on the Texans’ 90-man roster, and there’s a compelling argument for keeping each of the five. But only three or four will likely make the 53-man roster, so Thursday might be a final chance for four of the five.
Rookie Kahale Warring has been in the concussion protocol, and also hasn’t played in any preseason games. He was very impressive in OTAs, though, and did some nice things in a couple practices in Green Bay.
Second-year tight ends Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas led the way at that spot in the 2018 regular season, and both look more comfortable that they did as rookies.
Veteran Darren Fells is the most accomplished and experienced blocker, and on top of that, he’s caught a combined 10 touchdowns over the last four seasons.
Jerrell Adams, meanwhile, has made plays throughout camp and in the preseason. He’s also a terror after the catch, as evidenced by his stiff-arm on a reception that went for a 30-yard gain.
5) Help on every corner: O’Brien’s encouraged by what he’s seen from the cornerback position. The Texans added Bradley Roby in free agency, and used a second round draft pick on Lonnie Johnson, Junior. The group is still led by veteran Johnathan Joseph.
“I think it’s improved, I think J-Jo has been steady for us, I think Roby’s more accustomed to our system,” O’Brien said. “He’s played well in the snaps that he’s had in the preseason, played well, versatile guy, he’s played well in practice. I think Lonnie Johnson’s come on and improved. I think he’s got a ways to go, but he’s improved. I think there’s other guys.”
Those ‘other guys’ O’Brien referenced will look to distinguish themselves against the Rams. How the likes of Aaron Colvin, Johnson Bademosi, and a few others perform could help in determining the makeup of the 53-man roster.