The Texans (1-0) play their lone home preseason game on Saturday afternoon against the Dolphins (0-1). The two squads practiced together on Wednesday and Thursday this week at the Houston Methodist Training Center, and here are five things to watch when they kick off inside NRG Stadium at 3 p.m. CT.
1) Everyone plays – Last week at New England, several projected starters had the night off. That won't be the case on Saturday afternoon. Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil, defensive end Jerry Hughes, and running back Dameon Pierce are just a few Texans who will make their 2023 preseason debut.
Their reps will likely be limited, but every able-bodied Texan will get some game action versus Miami.
"All of our players will see time in the game and that's how we'll go about it," Head Coach DeMeco Ryans said Thursday. "In the preseason and training camp, everything matters. It may not count, but it matters. So, everything that we do, whether it's reps out here on the practice field or getting real life game reps, it all matters to us and they're all important."
After a controlled amount of reps during the joint practices this week, the Texans will get an extra dose of game reps on top of that. Ryans is glad Tunsil will be on the field helping bolster the offense.
"If you're going to be a great offense, you've got to have a great protector at that left tackle position, and that's what Laremy provides for us," Ryans said. "Laremy has done it at a high level for such a long time, right? He's consistent and he's reliable."
2) Stroud Home Debut – For his first time as a professional, C.J. Stroud will play inside NRG Stadium. The rookie quarterback gets his second start in as many preseason games, and he'll likely play quite a bit more than he did in New England. Stroud was on the field for two series against the Patriots.
"C.J. will go out first, again, as he did last week," Ryans said,. "We'll adjust the game as it goes along."
Unlike last week, Stroud will have the benefit of Tunsil blocking for him, as well as veteran right guard Shaq Mason. Plus, veteran receivers Robert Woods and Noah Brown will also be available, too.
Woods has been impressed with Stroud's improvement, and thinks it'll continue.
"He's growing and growing as a quarterback," Woods said. "He's going into this game as the starter, getting another game opportunity. He's feeling it out and getting used to – and be ready to go – for the real action."
3) Fully-loaded run game -Pierce, as mentioned above, will also see game action for the first time this preseason. He hasn't been in a game since the Texans faced the Cowboys on December 11 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. It's the first time Pierce will play in NRG Stadium since the week before that, when Houston hosted the Browns and Pierce carried 18 times for 73 yards.
Pierce explained how he's ready to go.
"I feel like I'm bounds and leaps ahead of where I was last year at this time, because last year at this time, my head was spinning," Pierce said. "Now the game has slowed down tremendously. I just feel better. I feel more in-shape, feel better mentally, feel sharper, and I'm ready to have a good season."
Last week against the Patriots, running back Mike Boone led the way with four carries for 25 yards. The Texans averaged three yards per carry as a team in New England.
4) Will you check this out? – Stroud's not the only Texans first-rounder making his rookie home debut. Third overall pick Will Anderson, Jr. will play his first game at NRG Stadium, and if he plays anything like the way he's practiced in camp and played last week at New England, he'll be hard to miss.
Anderson has routinely caused problems, whether he's lined up across from the Patriots offense, the Dolphins offense and even the Texans offense.
"Will Anderson Jr. is a beast," Texans safety Jimmie Ward said. "He's just been making plays since we've been out here, creating pressure on the quarterback. He's a one-man wrecking crew."
Anderson though, is continuing to focus on improving one thing in particular.
"My first step," Anderson said. "Just my lunge and everything. That's really one of the biggest things that Coach [Ryans] always talks about – just having that first step and getting my footwork right. One, two, down close – everything like that within the system. Really just the small details. Coach [Ryans] always talks about being precise and that's just what I want to continue to do – be precise with my details."
5) Position competitions – Of the many position group competitions, linebacker and cornerback are fierce ones. There are clear starters at each spot, but there are also plenty of capable reserves fighting for the remaining roster slots.
Final cuts are still nearly two weeks away. But playing well against a potent Miami offense in a game situation could be a chance for players who are on the fringe to get into position to make the 53-man roster.