The Texans kick off their preseason campaign Saturday night at 7 p.m. CT in Green Bay. Houston faces the Packers at Lambeau Field, and it's the second time in three years these two squads commenced their preseasons against each other. They also played in Green Bay to start the 2019 exhibition slate. Here are five things to watch when the Texans and Packers square off in Wisconsin. Check out all the ways to watch here.
1) Quarterback spotlight – Tyrod Taylor, Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel will be under center for Houston. Taylor's been a steadying influence and effective field general through the first couple weeks of training camp. He'll likely get the start, and the Mills/Driskel combo will come on in relief after him.
Head coach David Culley hasn't specified how much action each quarterback will get in the opener, but all three will likely get some snaps. Culley, though, kept the team's plans close to the proverbial vest when asked how many reps the players would get. He said the Texans will "kind of take it one week at a time as to see what we need to do in that situation."
Taylor brings over a decade's worth of experience to the mix, while the 22-year old Mills left Stanford after his junior season with 14 career starts in college under his belt. Driskel, meanwhile, is entering his sixth NFL season with his fifth different franchise.
2) O-line Combos – Because of some COVID-related absences, there will be plenty of mixing and matching up front on the offensive line Saturday evening. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil is coming off a pair of Pro Bowl selections in each of the previous two seasons, and he won't suit up at Green Bay. Neither will Tytus Howard, who's been with the first team at both right tackle and left guard throughout the early part of training camp. Roderick Johnson, who's started games at left and right tackle the last two seasons, will also be out.
Despite all that, Culley explained what he wants to see up front in the first game.
"Consistency, coming off the ball, communicating, everybody being on the same page," Culley said. "Their communication is critical."
Spearheading the communication efforts for the first team since he arrived in March, is center Justin Britt. A starter in Seattle from 2014 through 2019, Britt's been a steadying influence. Green Bay native Max Scharping, former Packer Justin McCray and second-year tackle Charlie Heck have all seen significant amounts of time with the first team as well.
3) New look defense – Lovie Smith is the defensive coordinator in Houston, and he's brought his 4-3 defensive alignment to town. For the first time since 2010, the Texans won't operate with a 3-4 scheme as their base defense.
The early noise in camp has been very positive, and several players are invigorated by the change.
"He likes the basic fundamentals," cornerback Desmond King, II said. "He teaches that every day to us. That's what you want to do as a player. You want to start from the basic and build from the ground up. I think that's what we're doing now, starting from the bottom and building up to where we want to be."
Through the early part of camp, Smith's defense has shined. They've routinely come up with takeaways, which was something the 2020 bunch did not. Last season, Houston was dead last in the NFL with just nine takeaways on the entire year.
4) Special teams newcomers – The Texans have a new punter in Cam Johnston, and a new return man in Andre Roberts. The latter's been to the last three Pro Bowls as a returner, and he's averaged 10.7 yards per punt return in that span. Roberts explained his main goal.
"Help out the field position battle," Roberts said. "Get our offense in a good position so they don't have to drive the length of the field."
Johnston, meanwhile, is enthused about the opportunity here. The punter in Philadelphia from 2018 through 2020, one of the main reasons he chose the Texans was the speed on the edges at punt gunner. He was impressed by the stable of players who will run down the field to cover punts.
In his three years with the Eagles, Johnston averaged 47 yards per punt.
5) Other Rookies – In addition to Mills at quarterback, receiver Nico Collins and tight end Brevin Jordan have flashed in training camp. On the defensive side of the ball, lineman Roy Lopez and linebacker Garret Wallow have also had their moments. But if you listen to them talk, they all say they've quite a way to go.
"There's always room to improve my game," Collins said. "Every day I feel like it's an opportunity to come out here and work on the things I feel like I need to work on."
Lopez has caused problems for the Texans offensive linemen at times this camp. Continuing that trend against the Packers would be a welcome sight. Regardless, Lopez will enter the game with the same mindset.
"Just come every single day with an open, free, new mind and if I did good yesterday, I did bad yesterday, doesn't matter. Today is a new day."
The Texans travel to Green Bay on Friday afternoon.