1. How long will Brock Osweiler play?
Normally, I would want a new QB to get a few series in the preseason opener, and that’s probably what will happen. My concern is the offensive line. The Texans are currently operating with their backup offensive tackles, which leaves Chris Clark at LT, and Kendall Lamm at RT. Plus, Nick Martin has missed four straight days of practice, which likely will leave Greg Mancz starting at center on Sunday evening.
That’s a lot of backups for me to feel comfortable with. The 49ers have some dangerous front-seven players in Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Ahmad Brooks, who could do some damage. Keeping Osweiler upright is obviously crucial.
2. Will the young receivers make big plays?
Will Fuller has been reeling in long receptions on a very consistent basis so far in training camp; he and Osweiler have connected on a deep pass at every single practice that I’ve attended. A lot of them have come in full pads, or at least against the first-team defense. Braxton Miller has also done a nice job in the slot.
There’s a difference between making those plays in training camp, and on the field in actual game situations. This offense will need solid contributions from Fuller and Miller to achieve its potential; Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins are the foundational building blocks, but Osweiler will need the young WRs to be ready early.
3. Which RBs distinguish themselves?
I think there’s a real chance that the Texans keep 4 running backs, due to a combination of skillset and draft status. In my eyes, Alfred Blue has a lot to prove, but he did show some flashes of improvement late in the 2015 season. He has more size and power than the others in this group.
Jonathan Grimes isn’t a flashy player, but he’s consistently been this team’s most reliable run/pass threat recently, at least in the non-Arian Foster category. Ideally, I think other players with more raw ability emerge here. Both Tyler Ervin and Akeem Hunt have a lot of speed, and Ervin’s draft status ensures that he will be on the roster. Is there room for Hunt on the team, since Miller and Ervin already provide good speed?
4. Do any of the defensive linemen emerge?
We all know that that JJ Watt is rehabbing from a back injury, and his status for Week 1 isn’t guaranteed. Vince Wilfork is thankfully in better shape this training camp, but it’s hard to imagine that he plays more than a series or so in the preseason. Past Watt, this DL group is in the bottom echelon in the NFL.
Devon Still, Brandon Dunn, Christian Covington, DJ Reader, and Jeoffrey Pagan are playing for a combination of roster spots and playing time. Covington and Reader are draft picks and both are talented, so they will be on the roster. Past them, the others need to produce. They’re not only competing with the other DL in this group, but the other linemen across the league who have a chance to be released at the roster cutdown later this month.
5. Is AJ Bouye’s improvement real?
Well, it definitely has been so far in training camp. The 4th-year former UDFA really looks like he’s taken a step up in his development, which creates a pretty deep secondary. Bouye is going to be behind Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, and Kevin Johnson, but no NFL team has enough CBs.
This could be more of an in-season question, but I imagine that the depth chart means that Bouye will see a lot of time in the preseason. Looking at the schedule, the Texans will face some very dangerous passing attacks: the Patriots, Colts, Packers, Jaguars, Raiders, Chargers, and possibly more. Joseph has had some nagging injury issues the last few years, so Bouye providing a credible option in the secondary can help defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel a lot.