The Houston Texans are heading into the stage of the preseason where it’s dress rehearsal time.

The starters will play about three quarters of preseason game No. 3 Saturday at the San Francisco 49ers. So far we’ve seen that the Texans offense could be one of the most explosive in the league this season and Wade Phillips 3-4 defense will make an instant impact.

But with two preseason games left and the first two roster cut downs looming, there are still some intriguing questions the Texans need to answer. Who will be the starting quarterback opposite hot shot free agent acquisition Jonathan Joseph? Can Ben Tate come in snatch the backup role behind Arian Foster?  And which, if any, of the receivers in camp are ready to claim the fourth and fifth spots on the roster?

Here are five areas to watch Saturday night against the 49ers:

  1. Cornerback

Kareem Jackson vs. Jason Allen

The anticipation of which cornerback will start opposite free agent acquisition Jonathan Joseph has been almost has provided one of the highlights of the Texans camp. One day it looks like the light is finally coming on for Jackson in his second season in the NFL. Then other days you can just see that Allen has experience and skills that Jackson just doesn’t have yet. But it just sounds like Gary Kubiak and the coaching staff might give Jackson the first shot at starting this season.

  1. Backup tailback

Ben Tate vs. Derrick Ward

Tate was just part of the conversation about who would back up starter Arian Foster prior to last week. But after the second-year backs breakout performance during last week’s preseason win over New Orleans – his first true action as a pro – Tate has been all anyone has talked about. His performance could likely leave Steve Slaton as the odd man out, placing him and Ward to compete for carries behind Foster.

  1. Nose tackle

Shaun Cody vs. Earl Mitchell

This has been one of the more interesting battles this preseason. Mitchell is the younger and much more active defensive lineman who has a knack for getting around the passer. But Cody has been able to show that he still has a lot left in him, especially during this time that Mitchell has been down with a knee injury. The belief is that come opening day Mitchell will be the starter and Cody will back him up.

  1. Punter

Brett Hartmann vs. Brad Maynard

Hartmann, a rookie, certainly has the booming leg you look for as evidenced by his 52-yard punt in the preseason opener against the New York Jets. But the veteran Maynard has been a model of consistency throughout his 14 seasons and his ability to directional punt and consistently get the ball inside of the 20 will be hard for the Texans to overlook.

  1. Wide Receiver

There are a lot of bodies vying for the fourth and fifth receiver spots behind Andre Johnson, Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter. The problem is that none of them have been as impressive or consistent as the coaching staff would like. Devard Darling has made some plays and so have others like Trinden Holliday, Terrence Tolliver, Lestar Jean and Paul Williams. The problem is that none have done much with consistency. That fact has led to the speculation the Texans will likely wait to which veteran receivers get cut from current NFL teams before filling out the final receiver spots.

Contact Terrance Harris at or follow him on Twitter @Terranceharris

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