*Here are Five Things to Watch when the Texans host the 49ers Thursday night (ABC-13/KTRK) at 7:00 p.m. CT in NRG Stadium.
The fourth and final preseason game of 2014 is here for the Texans, and they'll host a San Francisco squad that's scored a combined 24 points in three exhibition contests.
1. Starter Quality- The bulk of the Texans starters won't play against the 49ers, but that won't be the case for the visitors. Head coach Jim Harbaugh said his starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick will hit the field for San Francisco.
"I'd like to see him out there Thursday," Jim Harbaugh said on KNBR Tuesday morning. "That's the way we've always done it, where the quarterback plays some in each game, not necessarily more in any one game than in any of the four other games."
How the Texans reserves deal with the 49ers starters will be an interesting subplot to follow.
2. Backup QB's- Case Keenum will start at quarterback for the Texans, and Tom Savage will get a
fair amount of time, too. There's an outside chance that Ryan Fitzpatrick plays, but don't count on it.
"I would say Fitzy probably would not play in this game, but he will be ready to go," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "You know what I did in that first game where I put him back in for a two minute drive, something like that, that might happen. He would be, he'll be out there dressed and ready to go."
Keenum has completed 20-of-35 passes this preseason for 184 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. O'Brien said earlier this week that Savage has closed the gap in the competition between him and Keenum. As for the third-year signal caller, he said he understands the significance of the opportunity.
"Any time we step on the field it's pivotal as to what is happening going forward," Keenum said. "So anytime, practice today or practice tomorrow, I'm going to approach it the same way and go out and be the best I can."
3. Kickers- The incumbent, Randy Bullock, has made both field goal attempts this preseason. He's
connected on a 40-yarder and a 24-yarder, and been a perfect three-for-three on extra points.
The challenger in rookie Chris Boswell, meanwhile, connected on a 33-yard attempt, but missed a pair of point-after tries in the win over Atlanta.
Still, according to O'Brien, the competition continues.
"I would say were not really sure on that yet," O'Brien said. "I would tell you that Boswell will definitely kick in the game and probably punt in the game also. I also say that Randy, I'm sure will have a certain amount of kicks in the game too."
4. Wide receiver group- Don't expect Andre Johnson to hit the field against San Francisco, and
don't be surprised if DeAndre Hopkins is absent as well.
If that's the case, the young pass catchers will get more chances to show they belong on the squad. In last Saturday's win at Denver, undrafted rookie Travis Labhart caught the two-point conversion pass from Savage. The contest against San Francisco is a big opportunity for him.
"You live for these kinds of things regardless if it's a preseason (game) or whatever," Labhart said. "As a child, you grow up dreaming of playing on Sundays and you've got to treat Thursday like that."
With Johnson and Hopkins as locks to make the squad, and Keshawn Martin, DeVier Posey and Mike Thomas very likely on the 53-man roster, that leaves Labhart competing with the likes of EZ Nwachukwu and Lacoltan Bester for a possible sixth receiver position on the team.
5. In a corner-Conversely, the cornerback position battle is an intriguing one to follow, too.
Veterans Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson won't likely play. Second-year standout A.J. Bouye's had a sterling training camp and preseason.
So Elbert Mack, Brandon Harris, Josh Victorian, Andre Hal and Marcus Williams are in the mix for roster spots and will be tested one last time this preseason. For O'Brien, cornerbacks must have a special mentality when it comes to success and failure.
"When you play that position, whether it's the inside, the star or the outside corner position, you know you're not going to win every battle," O'Brien said. "Those guys have to have a very, very different mindset. They have to be very confident in their own abilities to continue to stay aggressive."
How much the corners see of Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson, Quinton Patton and company remains to be seen. But that receiving corps for the 49ers is a dynamic group, with very unique skillsets all around.