The goal of every pre-season game is come out of it healthy, see a few guys make some impact plays and win. The Texans may have missed out on two of the three, because they lost, and QB Tom Savage left the game with an upper body injury. There were some impact players but not as many as the team had in New Orleans on Sunday. Two out of three typically isn't bad, but in this case it was. Here are my observations from the final pre-season game of the 2015 season.
- DT Christian Covington is one of this team's more disruptive defensive players. He has more than proven along the way that he's going to impact this defense in some way, shape or form. He has consistently flashed along the line of scrimmage, darted into the backfield often and made tackles throughout all four games, but especially tonight. One of his tackles was a key stop of Cowboys RB Gus Johnson on fourth down in the first half. I figured he would make the roster, even being a late day three draft pick, but he's shined from the day he showed up in May through tonight's loss.
- CB Charles James II was in position all night in coverage, but just missed knocking away a number of throws his way. The toughest one was in the fourth quarter when he blanketed WR Clyde Gates on a shallow crosser and nearly knocked it away on third down. He had an opportunity tonight to cement a position on this 53-man roster but gave up catches that he hadn't in training camp to this point.
- Bill O'Brien said on Tuesday's Hard Knocks episode that he "didn't know who the backup offensive line was going to be." He may still not know after this evening. The Texans struggled to get anything going in the run game throughout. They ran power in the third quarter a few times to get Kenny Hilliard loose but it was rough sledding against the Cowboys 4-3 defense. The Texans went with the same quintet the entire game that I recall, including recently acquired Chris Clark at left tackle for the whole game.
- RB Chris Polk's touchdown was play execution at its best. The Cowboys were in man coverage and the outside CB trailed WR Keshawn Martin across the formation. It created a natural rub route as Martin and
the DB picked off the inside linebacker who was responsible for Polk in man coverage. Polk was wide open, made the catch and sauntered into the end zone "Bang, Bang Chicken and Shrimp" style.
- I watched P Shane Lechler before the game punt from deep in the end zone. I swore at the time that his sole purpose during pregame was to hit the massive video board. He hit a couple of rocket shots but couldn't hit the video board when I watched. He looked defeated after he couldn't do it (apparently, he nailed it a couple of times when I was doing a pre-game TV interview). Then, during the game, he hit an absolute moon shot and that thing hit flush on the bottom of the board. It created a do over like we used to have back in the neighborhood, playing street football. Remember…you'd argue a play one way, the other team argued it another. What did you do? DO OVER! The thing is that Lechler's angle was much worse punting from about his 20 or 30 than it was in the end zone and he crushed that punt. Gave us a chuckle in the booth.
- The Texans didn't play base defense the entire night as it was in nickel most of the night. The OLB did
play, but only one at a time. I'm sure there was a method to the madness but it was strange to not see them in their traditional 3-4 nearly at all throughout the night.
- S Kurtis Drummond didn't wow anyone early in minicamp/OTA and early in training camp, but he steadily improved and game situations truly exemplified his football intelligence. I think cracking the 53-man roster is going to be tough, but I hope the Texans, at worst, can bring him back to the practice squad. There's a football future in that young man.
- Before going out with an injury, QB Tom Savage was under heat a decent portion of the night. That said, the corner route he threw to WR Keshawn Martin for his second touchdown of the game was a gem. Cowboys CB Byron Jones was in perfect position, honestly, to not allow that throw, but the ball placement was perfect. Savage dropped the gem right in Martin's hands for the touchdown to tie the game.
- The pick six, though, was eerily familiar to the one he threw in last year's fourth preseason game to
former 49ers LB Chris Borland. Cowboys S Corey White buzzed the flat, knowing that based on WR splits, it was the only route that could come his way. White guessed properly and came away with the game tying pick six.
- Speaking of Martin, it's going to be an uphill climb to make the roster. Over the past couple of weeks, though, he's made a more and more plays in the passing game. The roster numbers don't seem to work in his favor, regardless as to whether the Texans keep five or six receivers. That said, he's had much better tape the past few weeks.
- I wanted to really see Savage pull himself out of a little bit of a tailspin after the pick six and the fumble that led to a 21-yard Gus Johnson touchdown. He did make that gem of a throw to Keshawn to respond, but shortly thereafter, he unfortunately went out with the injury.
- Savage wasn't the only one to leave the game dinged up, but he was the only one to not come back into the game. Christian Covington left for a few plays with an upper body injury but he returned. As did Kourtnei Brown, who left the game on the same play in which Covington originally got hurt. Both returned later in the game, which was a good sign.
- OLB Tony Washington was injured on the opening kickoff with a chest injury and didn't return to the game, either.
- LS Jon Weeks had an unassisted tackle on a punt, a beauty and when I mentioned that to him in the locker room, he was furious that he didn't make one later in the game that resulted in a significant return. I'll take that guy on my team any day. He's a competitor. It was the fourth preseason game and he's irate that he missed a play that cost the team a decent return. I like that, not to mention he fires pills back to Lechler on punts and field goals.
- After the game, O'Brien was fairly even keeled. He and GM Rick Smith are going to have to spend the weekend telling guys that their run with the Texans is over. I know OB well and I know he abhors that part of the job. But one thing I got out of talking to him afterward is that he's ready to finally put the puzzle together on September 13th. He's seen it in his head. He's seen bits and pieces in practice. Once he and the organization can get past this weekend, Hard Knocks is in the books, the 53-man roster will be set and true game planning and preparation for Kansas City can begin.
- The Texans didn't play a tight end on Thursday night. Either OL Matt Feiler lined up at Y or H or the Texans went four wides. With the trade of Khari Lee to the Bears and Mike McFarland's injury at the beginning of camp, the offensive staff decided to keep all three tight ends on the shelf and let Feiler get extended time at "just a little further to the right or left" tackle.
Well, it's over. Training camp and pre-season are in the books. All that remains at this point is the most difficult weekend of the entire season for O'Brien, Rick Smith and the organization, saying goodbye to 12 players for good (that's 22 players released, ten brought back on practice squad). Quite honestly, we're all looking forward to what this team will look like on September 13th and no more looking back. It's time. Regular season football begins now.
Check out photos from the Texans preseason finale against the Cowboys.