*Here are Five Things to Watch when the Texans host Washington in Week 1 at NRG Stadium. (FOX-26/KRIV, Noon CT)
1. Clowney and Watt- At long last, we'll get to see the game's greatest defender paired with the Draft's greatest defender for more than a handful of plays.
J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney played together in Arizona for the first series of the game. After that, they were never on the field together.
Watt had a sack during that series, while Clowney added a tackle for loss later in the half, as well as a tackle for loss and sack the next week against the Falcons.
Where they line up in relation to each other will vary by down, distance, situation and more, and you can excpect defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to be very creative. The possibilities are limitless, and a legion of people are anxious to see Clowney suit up for the first time in a regular season game.
"I'm looking forward to watching him play on Sunday," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "I think we all are."
Because of Watt's versatility, Crennel and the Texans will be able to move Watt quite a bit. Crennel even said Thursday that Watt's capable of playing the outside linebacker position.
"He can play inside, he can play outside and probably he could stand up if we needed him to stand up," Crennel said. "I think that he has that kind of versatility."
2. Foster's role- We last saw Arian Foster in a game during the opening moments of the Sunday Night Football loss to the Colts last season. The 2012 NFL touchdown king missed the back end of
2013 because of injury, and didn't play in any of the four preseason contests.
But he practiced during the week in Denver against the Broncos, and looked good. O'Brien intends to use Foster in a variety of ways, beginning against Washington.
"Arian will start the game and Arian is going to play a lot," O'Brien said.
The return of Foster, who rushed for 1,200 yards or more from 2010 to 2012, has left tackle Duane Brown "very excited" about the impact on the offense.
"When Arian's out there with us it really gives us a chance to be successful, a chance to be more flexible with our offense," Brown said. "We've always had a lot of success when he's out there and he's healthy."
Always a threat to catch passes out of the backfield, look for that to continue for Foster. But also look for him to line up in different receiver positions as well.
3. Rookie tight end?- Veteran Garrett Graham missed practice this week becuase of a back injury.
O'Brien said the tight end will work out before kickoff and the team will make a decision on whether or not he can go.
If Graham's out, rookie C.J. Fiedorowicz will start in his place.
"He's an instinctive guy," O'Brien said of Fiedorowicz. "He's a tough kid. He comes from a tough college football program at the University of Iowa. He's got a good future, and hopefully it starts on Sunday."
Fiedorowicz had five catches for 32 yards during the preseason, and O'Brien has been impressed with the rookie's blocking. He's also liked the progression Fiedorowicz has made catching the ball.
4. First for Fitzpatrick- For the first time since 2006, someone not named Matt Schaub starts a season opener for the Texans at quarterback.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is the man under center, and at his disposal is Foster, Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins and company. With a full complement of his offensive weapons available, Fitzpatrick likes his chances.
"We've got a lot of talent on offense," Fitzpatrick said. "A lot of that makes my job a little bit easier in terms of guys getting open and getting the ball in space. With that being said, I've got to be able to get us in proper protections, plays, whatever it is and make sure I'm throwing it to the right guy."
His position coach, George Godsey, thinks Fitzpatrick's is in a spot to succeed in 2014.
"It's a new year for Ryan and it's a new system for Ryan," Godsey said. "From being out there at practice, I think that's some of the things that we try not to put him into those situations that maybe he's not comfortable with."
5. Limit the big play- Washington quarterback Robert Griffin, III can extend plays with his legs, if
he needs to. Griffin also has DeSean Jackson as a receiver now, and the former Eagle has 39 touchdowns to his name (receiving/rushing/returning) in six NFL seasons. Jackson's not alone in being a big play threat, and O'Brien said the Texans are aware of Washington's team speed.
"That certainly is a big part of their offense," O'Brien said. "The fact that DeSean Jackson is over there, who is an excellent receiver, a speed receiver, a shot guy, meaning a guy that they're going to take shots to down the field. Pierre Garcon, same thing. That's definitely a concern of ours and it's going to be a big challenge for us to try and stop that on Sunday."
The Texans will have cornerback Johnathan Joseph back, after the veteran missed all four preseason games.
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