Here are Five Things to Watch when the Texans host the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at Reliant Stadium.
1. Kubiak in the Booth- For the second consecutive week, head coach Gary Kubiak will be high atop Reliant Stadium in the coaches booth. Still on the mend from suffering a mini-stroke on November 3, Kubiak's doctors told him he can't coach from the sidelines.
"I listen to them and talk to them," Kubiak said Friday aftenroon. "I understand their decision. Just glad to get back and be out there and go to work. I'll just keep listening to them and we'll go week-to-
With Kubiak upstairs, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will have the challenge flag. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was on the sideline last Sunday in the loss to the Raiders.
2. Broken record?-With 10 receptions, Andre Johnson will have caught 900 passes in his career. If Johnson is able to snare at least 10 on Sunday, he'll have done it in 149 career games. That would tie him with Marvin Harrison as the fastest to ever reach that milestone. When he was asked about it during the week, Johnson didn't realize that feat was so close in front of him.
"It's getting up there, but when you're drafted you don't think about stuff like that," Johnson said. "You
just think about living out your dream and accomplishing your goal that you set as a kid. I've never said I was going to be a top-15, top-whatever wide receiver. I just wanted to be one of the best."
Johnson is also just 34 yards shy of 1,000 in 2013, and it would be the 7th season in his illustrious career he's reached that mark.
The last time he suited up against Jacksonville was November 18, 2012 in Houston. He set career highs with 14 catches for 273 yards and the game-winning 48-yard touchdown in overtime.
3. Watt will happen- Defensive end J.J. Watt sat out Wednesday's practice with what he described
as a "sore back". But he was back at it Thursday and Friday and is set for Sunday. He's riding a four-game streak in which he's tallied at least one sack, and he's also forced a trio of fumbles. Further, he's leading the NFL in both quarterback hits (30) and tackles for loss (15).
"You can see it every week," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. "I think the 'average fan' who doesn't watch the defensive line all the time sees him show up. I think it's just obvious to everybody."
In four career games against Jacksonville, Watt's notched 25 tackles, 4.5 sacks, four batted passes and a fumble recovery.
4. Cornerback depth- Starter Kareem Jackson is out with what he described as a broken first rib behind his collarbone. That means Brice McCain will start at corner opposite Johnathan Joseph, with third-year veteran Brandon Harris getting more time as well. The team also added free agent Justin Rogers to the mix early in the week, and Kubiak said all proverbial hands will be on deck.
"Everybody's going to play," Kubiak said. "We've got basically seven healthy DBs and then the new one we signed in Justin. So we're trying to catch him up real quick. Everybody will play, but Brice will start."
Those seven defensive backs listed by Kubiak are Joseph, McCain, Harris, D.J. Sweariner, Shiloh Keo, Eddie Pleasant and Justin Victorian.
5. Tight end influence- Oddly last week, the Texans didn't run too many two-tight end formations.
Garrett Graham and Jake Byrne were the only active tight ends to suit up against Oakland, and the former wound up with 136 receiving yards. That's the best mark for a tight end in franchise history. Rookie Ryan Griffin was out with a concussion against the Raiders, but he caught a touchdown in the loss at Arizona.
His return could see the Texans move back to more two-tight end packages.
"We still try to pound the ball and run our keeper stuff," Griffin said. "But it is different and we've got to get back to it, getting the ball on the ground and spreading out the two tight end stuff. We'll be ready to go."
Griffin's presence will help the Texans offense vary their formations just a bit more.