The last hurdle to cross before the regular season begins is the final game of the 2022 preseason against the San Francisco 49ers. For some on the roster, it's just the last step of a grueling Training Camp on the way to a September 11 home matchup with the Colts. For others, it might be the most important football game they've ever played as they try to keep their football lives alive in some way, shape or form. Let's take one final look at the Texans position groups heading into this last game of the preseason.
Davis Mills played two full quarters against Los Angeles, which allowed him to have some end-of-half work that led to the Texans first touchdown of the night. This game, though, remains a mystery as to how plays/series/reps will be divvied up. That said, all three QBs should, again, see the field. All three QBs threw touchdown passes last week in LA, with Kyle Allen and Jeff Driskel finding tight ends in the end zone for their scores.
The competition for roster spots really heated up in Los Angeles, in my humble opinion. Rookie Dameon Pierce didn't even get a rep in the game as head coach Lovie Smith noted that he saw enough from the rookie in Game 1 against the Saints. After Pierce, the competition is pretty fierce. Dare Ogunbowale and Royce Freeman ran HARD in the second half against the Rams and their efforts really kick started the offense over the final 30 minutes. There are five RB in the stable now and I don't foresee them keeping all five, so this game should be the final chapter in this competition.
The Texans released Andy Janovich this week, leaving two fullbacks on the roster - Paul Quessenberry, the veteran, and Troy Hairston, the converted edge rushing rookie. They both are hammerheads and the separator may be the performance on special teams in this matchup against San Francisco.
Brandin Cooks hasn't played in the first two preseason games and, with the work that he's done in training camp, I/we don't need to see #13 in this one at all. So, I'm okay with him wearing a ball cap all night long. Nico Collins was fabulous in Los Angeles last week and that's been consistent with his performance all training camp long. The competition gets ramped up after those two. Phillip Dorsett made a couple of key catches against LA and drew one deep pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter. I don't know how the numbers play out at this position, making this game massively important for all WR not named Cooks/Collins.
Last week, I said the biggest thing I wanted to see from the tight end group was the involvement of rookie TE Teagan Quitoriano. Check. A bigger issue for the rookie, though, is that he's been banged up. Making matters worse, so have Pharaoh Brown and Antony Auclair. So, there's no telling who IS PHYSICALLY ABLE to play on Thursday night. Rookie Seth Green and Mason Schreck, at a minimum, should see plenty of time on the field against the Niners.
The good news at the start of last week was the return of rookie first rounder Kenyon Green. He wasn't able to play in Los Angeles, but head coach Lovie Smith said he'll play on Thursday night. My eyes will be glued to the rookie in his first NFL action. Other than that, there is a significant number of OL fighting one final time this TC/PS for a roster spot, and football breath. It was great to see A.J. Cann, who played well in his return to the field after missing most of 2021. But, the Texans have to figure some things out with this group and this last game is the final shot for many on this OL.
The veterans of this group - Maliek Collins, Jerry Hughes - should get some action in this final game after sitting out the first two games. One player who Lovie Smith said won't play in this game is Ross Blacklock. I'll repeat what I've said for weeks now - this is the toughest cut on the team, without a doubt. The flip side is that it's also the deepest position on the roster as well. There are 14 DL on the roster as we speak. Getting that group to eight or even nine is going to be REALLY tough. I can MAYBE get to ten, in my mind, without feeling terribly conflicted, but to nine, or even eight? Man, gut punchingly hard.
The linebackers have been as banged up as the tight ends as Garret Wallow and Christian Harris have missed significant time with injuries. I don't see either one of them as potential roster cuts, though, and there's probably a couple coming soon to this spot. Tae Davis was released last week which leaves nine LB at the moment. The great news, though, was that Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill were fantastic in Los Angeles last week and look week one ready. Who joins them for 2022 is what Thursday night's game against San Francisco is all about.
The two projecting starting CB - Steven Nelson and rookie Derek Stingley Jr. - saw the field last week at Los Angeles but it wasn't for long. The competition behind them will be one of my points of emphasis heading into this game against a talented San Francisco receiving corps. The same can be said for the safety position, as there's a ton up in the air, in my opinion, heading into the preseason finale. One guy who has shined throughout training camp at a number of different spots is former Baylor star Grayland Arnold. He's been all over the field, creating mayhem on defense and special teams.