Here are Five Things to Watch when the Texans line up against the Ravens during their Week 3 matchup in Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium.
1. Blindsided- With all due respect to Ravens' tackle Michael Oher, the Texans' left tackle position is under a bigger spotlight this week. Oher was the featured subject in the Michael Lewis book, and 2011 movie "Blindside". He's the right tackle now for Baltimore.
Houston's left tackle position will almost certainly be manned Sunday by Ryan Harris, instead
of Duane Brown. The latter was an All-Pro in 2012 at the position, but sprained a toe in the Week 2 win over the Titans. He didn't practice at all this week, and is in a walking boot. So Harris steps into the breach.
He and right tackle Derek Newton will have their hands full with Baltimore's Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Each of those players has two sacks apiece in 2013. Harris said he's ready for the challenge.
"I'm prepared for any situation I'm called upon and it's exciting to be in the NFL," Harris said. "This is what you live for, the opportunities."
He also acknowledged that he'll have to bring his "'A' game" against the Ravens' talented pass-rushers.
2. Reed's Return- At long last, it appears safety Ed Reed will make his playing debut Sunday for the Texans. A Super Bowl champ last season with the Ravens, Reed has been on the comeback trail from a hip injury that needed surgery in early April. He practiced more this week with the first-team defense, but wouldn't guarantee a return to action at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.
"I get to do a little bit more getting to communicate with the guys because it is a matter of communication as well," Reed said on Thursday. "I'm feeling a lot better and trying to push it a bit more to see exactly how I feel if I go full throttle."
A common theme that emerges when a player takes the field against his former team, which will be the case for Reed facing the Ravens, is that the player has 'insider knowledge'. That idea doesn't mean much to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
"He'll tell you a little about what a receiver likes to run or offensive line, he can tell us a little bit about them," Phillips said. "It's overrated to a great extent, I would think."
Nevertheless, if Reed's in the lineup, the NFL's active leader in career interceptions with 61 will certainly have Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco's attention.
3. Air Tight?- With 18 and 12 points, tight ends Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham lead the Texans in scoring in 2013. The former has a trio of touchdown catches, while the latter has a
scoring grab in each of the season's first two games.
But healthwise, keep an eye on the two. Daniels, as has been the case for much of the last few seasons, didn't practice Wednesday. Head coach Gary Kubiak routinely sits the veteran from time-to-time to give him rest. On Thursday, meanwhile, Garrett Graham watched from the sidelines because of a sore hip.
"He got a hip pointer about a few weeks ago, missed a little time in practice in the preseason and his hip got sore on him," Kubiak said Thursday. "Hopefully, he feels better."
Graham will likely play, but it's something to keep an eye on. The duo is an integral part of the offense, and if either of the two is limited, look for rookie tight end Ryan Griffin to get an opportunity.
4. Ravens Runners- Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, combined, have carried the ball 53 times for 149 yards in 2013. That 2.8 yards per carry average is skewed a bit because the Ravens were forced to throw a lot more during the season-opening loss at Denver.
But Rice didn't participate in practice this week because of a hip injury. Despite the lower numbers so far in 2013, Phillips said Pierce is "a good back". Should Rice not being able to go, Phillips thinks the Baltimore passing game bears watching.
"I think the pass game is probably affected a little bit more," Phillips said. "Ray Rice is such a great player. You can out him out of the backfield and he can run routes and he runs them like a wide receiver. They lose a little bit there, but the running game, they're really strong with the big fullback and the power offensive linemen."
5. Kick it- The lone field goal Randy Bullock made this season was the game-winner at San Diego in Week 1. Aside from that 41-yarder, Bullock missed his other attempt against the
Chargers, as well as three against the Titans. But, as Kubiak explained, Bullock's opportunities haven't been short ones.
"There's disappointment because obviously we think he's a heck of a kicker," Kubiak said. "He's got plenty of leg. Of the four misses, three of them are 50 yards. So it's not like I'm giving him chip shots."
Although he's struggled on field goal tries, Bullock's been brilliant on kickoffs. Of his nine kickoffs, eight were touchbacks. Last season, Shayne Graham kicked off 89 times, and only 28 of those resulted in touchbacks.