On Friday, I asked some questions on things to look for in the Houston Texans game against the San Francisco 49ers. Now that the game has happened, let’s look at those questions and see what kind of answers we have now that the game has been played.
1. How long will Brock Osweiler play?
As it turns out, three series, with a final stat line of 4/7, 27 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, with a passer rating of 65.8. It was an uneven performance from the Texans’ new starter. His best play was a 12 yard catch-and-run with CJ Fiedorowicz, which is a feature that would be nice to see in the regular season.
Osweiler was unable to convert on 3 3rd downs, along with a 4th and 3 that proved to be his final pass of the game. Not much to write home about, and I think we’ll get a better sense of him and the offense next Saturday against the Saints.
2. Will the young receivers make big plays?
No huge plays, but the best sequence featured a very nice 24-yard hook-up between Tom Savage and Braxton Miller, which was well executed on both ends. Given that he’s only played the position for about a year and a half, I think it will take a few years for Miller to develop into a finished product at receiver. Still, 4 receptions for 34 yards is a decent debut.
Moving forward in the preseason, I wanted to see some big strikes down the field to Will Fuller, which has been a consistent feature in training camp so far.
I did think Jaelen Strong, who was the 4th receiver getting into the game, did well in his playing time. Josh Lenz showed nice quickness on his 3 receptions, and clearly had some chemistry with backup QB Tom Savage. I’m intrigued to watch Lenz moving forward.
3. Which RBs distinguish themselves?
Two of them did. Lamar Miller had 4 carries for 30 yards, with an 11-yard scamper to start things off on offense. I think he was one of the real bright spots on the night, because Miller is going to be heavily relied upon this season.
Miller has a certain burst that the offense has been lacking for some time. I’ve seen that in training camp, although I’ve been cautious about saying it, because evaluating running backs in practice is a difficult process.
The almost completely forgotten Kenny Hilliard came off the bench and 12 times for 40 yards. I thought his performance on the eye test was better than the raw numbers. Hilliard looked almost like a different human being from last season; he looked like he’s lost weight and gained some speed.
Hilliard did fumble the ball on the final play of the game, which obviously can’t happen. He’s in a very tough spot in the numbers game, because Miller is the feature back, Tyler Ervin was drafted relatively highly, Alfred Blue appears (for whatever reason) to be a favorite of the coaching staff, Akeem Hunt provides speed, and Jonathan Grimes is consistently productive.
At this point, I think the RB group, past Miller, is a wait-and-see situation. Let’s find out if everyone makes it through training camp healthy. Hilliard needs to play well and hope for some things to break his way to have a realistic shot to make the roster.
4. Do any of the defensive linemen emerge?
I think a few players showed some flashes, even though I am skeptical about this group heading into the regular season. Christian Covington forced a fumble that led directly to John Simon’s recovery for a touchdown. DJ Reader helped force a fumble in the red zone. Those were nice to see. I thought Covington’s performance was the most encouraging. Apart from the FF, he had some good rushes.
In the non-Watt category, Covington appears to be is the best pass rusher along the line on this roster, and is especially a good fit in nickel. Reader is a backup 5th-round pick, but it would be nice for the Texans to find a long-term solution at nose tackle, something they’ve been searching for.
5. Is AJ Bouye’s improvement real?
It has been so far in training camp, but not on Sunday night. Bouye missed the game with a groin injury.