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5 Things to Watch: Texans vs. Falcons

Posted Aug 15, 2014

Here are 5 Things to Watch when the Texans host the Falcons Saturday night in Houston.

*Here are Five Things to Watch when the Texans host the Falcons on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. CT on ABC-13/KTRK) at NRG Stadium.

The first game of the 2014 preseason was an ugly one for the Texans. Now, though, they're back at home for a tilt against Atlanta. The two teams practiced together at the Houston Methodist Training Center on Wednesday and Thursday.

Correcting mistakes and improving are a couple of keys for Houston, and with that in mind, look out for the following.

1. Clowney progression- His NFL debut was all roses, but linebacker Jadeveon Clowney tallied a tackle for loss, and helped J.J. Watt destroy the left side of the Cardinals line during a play that resulted in a Watt sack. He and the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year were on the field together for just a series, and don't expect that to change much on Saturday. But when they're in together, check to see if they're lined up next to each other, or on opposite ends of the line, or in some other alignment.

Although Clowney was beat in coverage against Arizona, head coach Bill O'Brien was fairly complimentary of the first overall pick's performance. Clowney wasn't satisfied with how he played, and said he's "confident" he'll improve in pass protection.

“I’m working on that every day," Clowney said. "It takes time. Come in early, come out here early, working on it with my coach, individual drills and working on his drops."

2. Penalties and Turnovers- There's stubbing your toe, and there's chopping off your foot. In a literal sense, the Texans did neither versus Arizona. But figuratively, they were somewhere in between those two scenarios when it came to penalties and turnovers.

They were flagged 13 times for 126 yards, and threw a pair of interceptions.

On top of that, the Cardinals held the ball for 42:07, so opportunities on offense were scarce. O'Brien and company are looking to shape up significantly in this area.

3. X-Factor- Offensive lineman Xavier Su'a-Filo has played in multiple spots. He's lined up primarily at the guard spots, but also played some left tackle at Arizona. At practice this week, he was at right guard with the first team offense. His development will go a long way toward solidifying things up front.

“I just think I need to be conscious of the details," Su'a-Filo said. "Playing center is a little bit different than playing guard and vice-versa with tackle, but the coaches asked me to learn it all, so happily I’ll do it. Granted, it’s not going to be perfect, but every single day I try to learn something new.”

Getting the reps at right guard with the starters though, helped with chemistry on that side of the line with tackle Derek Newton.

"I think anytime you work with on the right side there and you’re working with Newton, the more you’re working with a guy that you’ve got a chance to play next to a lot of games, then the more reps you get, the better you’re going to be at those types of things," O'Brien said.

4. Kickers gotta kick- Last week was a quiet one in the kicker competition. Randy Bullock kicked off to start the game. And then, he watched.

The Texans received the opening kickoff, and were shut out. Therefore, Bullock and rookie Chris Boswell didn't get a chance to compete for that job. Boswell punted three times for a 47.3 yard average, but didn't get a chance to kick off, or attempt a field goal or extra point. The battle for that spot, according to O'Brien, is ongoing.

"I see it as wide open," O'Brien said. "I think both guys have kicked well at times and both guys probably wish they had a few kicks back."

5. QB Consistency- When the offense gets just 17:53 on the field together, there's typically not a lot of reps to go around to three quarterbacks. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and Tom Savage are all looking to do better in moving the offensve when they get their chances on the field. But the opportunity presented by practicing against the Falcons was priceless for the quarterbacks, specifically Fitzpatrick, in O'Brien's mind.

"To be able to get out there right away and go against another defense and not our defense like we’ve doing for 15 practices, now we go practice 15 and 16 against another team," O'Brien said. "That’s a good thing for everybody. I thought he came out and thought he had two good days.”

The amount of reps Savage gets on-field will be interesting to note, because he was limited to the final two series of the game at Arizona.

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