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5 Things to Watch: Texans at Colts

Posted Dec 13, 2013

Here are five things to watch as the Texans travel to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Here are five things to watch as the Texans travel to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis where they look to get their first win in franchise history.

1. Tight end injuries and roster moves

The tight end situation got a little tighter for Sunday’s game at Indianapolis. With Owen Daniels out and Garrett Graham a game-time decision, Ryan Griffin remains as the only tight end who has played this season and that was as backup.  Graham, who has not practiced all week, was on the field Friday but in a limited role due to a hamstring injury.

“Garrett was in the huddle every play,” interim head coach Wade Phillips said. “He knows what to do. I think he could play if he’s ready to play. Physically, we would play him. It’s not a situation where, if he didn’t practice at all, he couldn’t play. That’s the situation with him. Everybody else is expected to play.”

Ryan Griffin is expected to start in his first career NFL game if Graham is inactive against Indianapolis.

“I took all the (first team) reps and so I feel confident, comfortable, and ready to go,” Griffin said Friday.

On Friday the Texans made roster moves to add options at tight end. The team released Jake Byrne and signed fullback Brad Smelley who played tight end during his college career at Alabama.


2. Special teams changes

Bob Ligashesky will be in charge of special teams after Joe Marciano, the only special teams coordinator in Texans franchise history, was dismissed last week. Phillips changed practice this week so that it better simulated game time. Special teams drills now alternate with offense and defense drills, instead of being before or after the team’s practice. Phillips hopes the changes lead to more big plays on Sunday at Indianapolis.

“I want us to be solid on special teams, but I think we have an opportunity to make plays on special teams," Phillips said. "It’s like offense and defense. It’s about making plays and we need to make plays, but we have the capabilities of doing those in our return game. In our coverage we need to cause a fumble. We need to do some things that we haven’t done, but I have confidence that we’re going to try to do that.”


3. Defensive play-calling

Defensive backs coach Vance Joseph will call plays for the first time in his career. Phillips delegated the duties after taking over this week as the interim head coach. With the game plan laid out during the week, play-calling on Sunday should not present any surprising situations.

“I think we talk about the gameplan and we don’t go off the gameplan," Phillip said Friday. "I don’t call something that we don’t have or hadn’t discussed about being a good call in certain situations or against certain personnel. It’s not set in stone what you call every play, but it’s something that I think is structured enough that we’ll certainly be on the same page that this call or that call is pretty close as far as situations.”


4. Hurry-up Case

Case Keenum is still looking for his first NFL win and now has plenty of game film to analyze. This week he focused on running the hurry-up offense in practice. Phillips even had him repeat parts of the hurry-up and two-minute drills to give Keenum extra reps.

“I want to not only get my craft as a quarterback, continue to grow that, but just decision making and just overall managing of a game,” Keenum said. “I think I can come a long way in just how you approach each series and taking care of the football especially. I think that’s probably one of the things, but among many.”


5. The X-factor

On the heels of an 11-game losing skid and the loss of Gary Kubiak, the mood of players has ranged from somber to frustrated. Phillips wants to bring back enthusiasm and fun to the locker room. This week he told players to mingle with other position groups. Offensive linemen joked with defensive backs in practice.

“We’ve been having a lot of fun with it,” Antonio Smith said. “It’s been real enjoyable in practice these past couple of days. That was his theme - to win this game, we’re going to have to be a team. A complete team.”

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