The bad news is that the Texans took an 'L' on Saturday afternoon in the Coliseum in Los Angeles, but there was plenty of good news as well.
Here are my observations from the 21-20 defeat at the hands of the LA Rams.
1. The majority of the first defense made its way on the field for the first time in, well, a long dadgum time. That unit needed to be dominant with the Rams offensive starters getting the day off. It was and it forced a turnover, something it failed to do consistently last season.
2. Kareem Jackson started the game at safety then moved to cornerback for the following two series. It was when he was aligned at corner that he got the pick that led to the Texans first touchdown. The Texans were short a few corners today so Kareem slid over and played it well.
3. I've seen J.J. Watt in training camp every single day so I wasn't surprised that he went out and shined right away. He shook a little rust off and made a few plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
4. Who we hadn't seen much of in training camp outside of this week, though, was Jadeveon Clowney. He batted a pass that nearly became an interception and was seemingly his natural menace-self throughout his two series in the game.
5. Safety Tyrann Mathieu was as excited as I've seen anyone for a preseason game. Prior to the game, an NFL Films camera got in his face and he told everyone "I'M PLAYING TODAY!" I love having that guy on this defense and it's just scratching the surface of what it can do. Next stop: Foxboro September 9th and a date with Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.
6. The defense wasn't at 100% on the day without Aaron Colvin, Dylan Cole and, of course, Whitney Mercilus. Those three should be ready to roll on September 9th and hopefully Kevin Johnson can get well and back on the field sooner than later. When this defense gets full attendance, it could be a scary group.
7. Offensive lineman Martinas Rankin was activated off the PUP list this week and he was a much needed shot in the arm for the offensive line unit. He came into the game at left tackle and also played guard, logging a significant number of plays for his first contact since the 2017 Tax Slayer Bowl on December 30th. He's going to be a massively important piece for this offensive line and he's going to find his way onto the field at some point, as long as he can stay healthy.
8. On the first play after Kareem Jackson's interception, running back Alfred Blue ran right behind right guard Chad Slade and right tackle Kendall Lamm, powering into the end zone for the first points of the game.
9. The run game did have some pop to it in the first quarter as Blue ran into the end zone, relatively unscathed and as he reeled off a 36-yard run late off the left side behind Rankin and left guard David Quessenberry.
10. Deshaun Watson threw an interception down the field in the first quarter, yet I'm convinced that he wouldn't try to get greedy, if you will, in a regular season situation. I've seen him do that in practice too, especially when he knows that his reps are nearing an end. So, yes, the turnover isn't a great look, but I'm not completely worried that will happen once the season begins in earnest in Foxboro.
11. Quarterback Brandon Weeden had some up and down moments. The end of the first half drive, after a fortuitous pass interference call on 3rd and 19, was outstanding. The interception earlier at the end of the first quarter was not so outstanding. Something was off about that play because no one blocked defensive end Ethan Westbrooks, who had a free shot on Weeden.
12. After the 3rd and 19 pass interference near the end of the half, Weeden and his receivers clicked. He hit Sammie Coates on a deep sideline route for 32 yards. He then hit Braxton Miller for 16 yards down to the two. Two plays later, he found Braxton again for the touchdown.
13. Braxton showed some hops on that touchdown completion too. He and Coates were in the same spot, which put four bodies in the area. Yet, it was Miller who leapt above them all to snatch the rock for a touchdown. As we said during the broadcast, receiver is going to be the most difficult position for this organization to make any cuts.
14. Defensive tackle Marcus Hardison registered the second sack of the preseason for the Texans (the other was notched by Angelo Blackson vs. Kansas City). Like the receiver position, the defensive line has some depth and finding the right number for the 53-man roster is going to be really difficult. Good to see Hardison flash and make a play for this defense at a key time.
15. The discussion all off-season was about getting guys healthy in 2018 and what this team could look like if fully healthy. One guy many didn't mention was defensive lineman Christian Covington. He's been outstanding throughout training camp and was missed immensely last season. He's come back stronger, quicker and even more disruptive. He has created a ton of havoc for offensive lines that are trying to double someone else and leaving him one-on-one. He's going to be a significant piece for this defense in 2018 for certain.
16. Running back Troymaine Pope makes a play each and every game, no matter what. His kickoff return gave the Texans field position for the first time really all day (sans the one play TD drive after Kareem Jackson's interception). He's now had two excellent returns in game action, unfortunately one of them was called back against San Francisco last week.
17. Okay, want a weird stat? The Rams were 11-of-17 on third downs, while the Texans were two of nine on third down. Yet, the Texans had 38 more total yards of offense than the Rams. That's really odd.
Anyhow, there's probably more that I missed and will catch later tomorrow, but that's it for this one from LA. See ya next week as we near the 53-man roster cutdown next weekend.
Thank you to our Traveling Texans that represented the team in the city of Los Angeles.