Reporting Paul Gallant
It seems like it’s been decades since the Texans ended their season January in Baltimore. Especially after a long summer where we watched the Rockets strip down into irrelevance, and the Astros embarrass the game of baseball by losing for a month and a half straight.
But the Texans are FINALLY back. And though it only be preseason football, this game is pretty important for a team trying to figure things out at a multitude of positions.
Here’s what I’ll be keeping my eyes on when the Texans kick things off against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.
The Right Side of the Offensive Line
You can sum it up with one word: uncertainty. Head coach Gary Kubiak has said multiple times that it’s a dead heat in the race for right guard and right tackle. Entering training camp, we all thought guard Antoine Caldwell and tackle Rashad Butler had the positions on lock down. But rookie guard Brandon Brooks and tackle Derek Newton have proven to be stiff competition. I doubt you’ll have a clear idea of who’ll take the starting gigs until after the third game of the preseason.
The Youngsters at Wideout
Keshawn Martin has been the star of training camp. As a result he’s vaulted to the three spot on the depth chart as Andre Johnson’s backup. I’d expect him to get a lot of reps with the first team. Lestar Jean and DeVier Posey have a lot to prove in Charlotte Saturday if they want to contribute in 2012.
Not to Mention the Cornerbacks
As I said Wednesday, the Texans play a litany of quarterbacks who can torch anyone in 2012. You know what to expect from corner Jonathan Joseph and safety Danieal Manning. But how will his colleague Kareem Jackson fare against Cam Newton and company? Will Brice McCain continue to play well at the nickel corner, or will training camp stud Brandon Harris challenge him for playing time? And what can Alan Ball, Sherrick McManis, and Roc Carmichael bring to the table?
And Oh Yeah…the Kickers
If you want to win a Super Bowl, you want a kicker you can rely on. Just ask the Patriots, who had Adam Vinatieri clinch two titles with last second field goals. Plus, we all remember how Kris Brown made Ray Finkle look like a sure-fire hall- of-famer.
Two players are duking it out to be the Texans’ leg. In one corner, the veteran: Shayne Graham. Graham is well past his prime, and over the last two seasons has served as a fill-in for FOUR different teams (Giants, Patriots, Dolphins and Ravens). In the other, the 5th round rookie Randy Bullock, who won the Lou Groza Award last year at Texas A&M as the nation’s best kicker.
This is Bullock’s job to lose, but you never know if a rookie kicker can replicate their school days in the pros. Just ask 2005 2nd round pick Mike Nugent, who never panned out. The only thing holding Bullock back is a sore groin that’s been bothering him the past few.