By Sam McPherson
Despite their 1-2 record, the Houston Texans find themselves in a four-way tie among AFC South teams this week. That’s good news for the Texans, as they have yet to see their star running back and offensive keystone take the field this season. However, now, the Houston offense also may find itself switching quarterbacks again.
Running back Arian Foster will be a game-time decision on Sunday in Atlanta as the Texans prepare to face the Falcons on the road. While Foster has seen limited practice with the team in the past few weeks, it’s still probably unlikely he takes the field in this game. However, there have been no setbacks, and that’s a positive sign for the Houston offense long-term.
Alfred Blue will continue to see the majority of carries in the backfield this week, especially after last week’s strong effort in the win over Tampa Bay. Fellow RB Jonathan Grimes is listed as questionable with a knee issue, and he may not play at all if the team can lean on Blue one more time for 30-plus carries. Grimes did not practice on Thursday.
QB Ryan Mallett was limited in his reps this week due to a chest injury, but he is expected to start on Sunday barring any setbacks Friday during workouts. Whether Mallett plays or Brian Hoyer returns to the lineup, the Texans QB will be expected to hand the ball to Blue, make some occasional throws, and mostly just stay mistake-free in this tough contest against Atlanta.
Houston ran for 186 yards last week against the Buccaneers, and the team will need that kind of effort again this week. The offensive line is a little banged up, but no player is appearing on the official injury report this week, and that bodes well for the team in Week 4.
The Falcons are averaging 30 points a game on offense, and it will be tough for the Texans to keep pace with that, especially if the defense isn’t 100 percent. The defense has a handful of players nursing injuries, and if Houston wants to hang with the Falcons, the team defense will need to be at full strength.
Linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Akeem Dent are both listed as questionable for the game. Clowney was limited in Thursday workouts, while Dent was unable to participate at all. With Atlanta’s diverse offense, this could be an issue for the Texans if both are unable to go on Sunday.
In the secondary, safety Lonnie Ballentine is still recovering from a knee problem, while cornerback Johnathan Joseph has a hip issue that limited his workouts this week. Both players are listed as questionable, although Ballentine won’t play after not being able to participate in practices.
Some good news for the secondary is that safety Eddie Pleasant’s thigh injury did not prevent him from working out this week, as he was a full participant in Thursday’s practice. That will help bolster the secondary against Falcons QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones, one of the most dangerous passing-game duos in the NFL.
Eddie Pleasant, Safety (thigh)
Lonnie Ballentine, Safety (knee)
Jadeveon Clowney, Linebacker (shoulder)
Akeem Dent, Linebacker (hamstring)
Arian Foster, Running Back (groin)
Jonathan Grimes, Running Back (knee)
Johnathan Joseph, Cornerback (hip)
Ryan Mallet, Quarterback (chest)
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.