The Texans travel to Los Angeles for a preseason matchup with the Rams. Here are five things to watch when Houston and Los Angeles tangle in the Los Angeles Coliseum. First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.
1) Stars to shine?- It's fitting the Texans' third preseason game is in Los Angeles. The team's stars will likely hit the fileld for game action the first time this year.
Defensive end J.J. Watt, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and safety Tyrann Mathieu are all likely to get into the game at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
"I could see pretty much anybody that's healthy, that's ready to go, could see some time in the game," head coach Bill O'Brien said.
Clowney explained why he'd like to get some work in before the regular season starts.
"It's very important to get out there and get some live plays because I'm going to be getting out there with the guys I'm going to be playing with during the season," Clowney said. "We need to get our chemistry together and I haven't been out there with them, so, for me to get out there and get going, it'll be great for me."
How much they play will likely vary, and it's doubtful they'll go more than quarter. But it'll be the first, and last, time they'll be in a game before Week 1 at New England.
Mathieu's looking forward to a little bit of work, and would like to get a takeaway.
"I just want to catch an interception," Mathieu said. "I don't want to use my helmet at all. It's rough right now, but obviously I'm ready to put on the uniform. I'm ready to show these guys what I can do in a live football game."
2) Coutee's Debut- In addition to some of the bigger names, Saturday afternoon might be the first time rookie receiver Keke Coutee is in a Texans uniform for a game. After a strong May and June in OTAs and minicamp, the fourth-rounder continued with an impressive start to training camp at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.
But an injury at the beginning of August kept him on the sidelines until earlier this week. Layering him into the mix at receiver will give the Texans another weapon as a pass-catcher.
"I feel like I have good route-running ability, but I still have room to improve," Coutee said. "Great explosiveness getting in and out of breaks. So, for me, I just want to get better every single day and be the best contributor on this team that I can be."
Quarterback Deshaun Watson has liked what he's seen from the rookie.
"He's a guy that comes in and can put an effect on the defense," Watson said. "He's quick, fast, strong hands and just a smart player, so he's another weapon for our offense."
3) That'll do it for Deshaun- After playing a series in each of the first two preseason contests, this will be the last glimpse of Watson under center until the regular season opener. Thusfar, he's completed 6-of-9 passes in the preseason, one of which was a touchdown.
He'll get a bit of work on Saturday, and he detailed what his goals are.
"Really just be as perfect as I can, 100 percent in whatever Coach OB and Sean Ryan are asking me to do," Watson said. "I just do it fast and just do it well. If I can do that and go in there and do what I need to do and try to put some points on the board, that'll be good."
His three incompletions last Saturday night all hit potential receivers in the hands, so Watson will look to continue with that accuracy against the Rams.
O'Brien's been pleased with Watson's progress and professionalism
"He's worked very hard to understand the system going into his second year," O'Brien said. "He's the type of guy that's always going to show up to work. He loves football. He's got great questions. He's been great since the day he walked in the door here."
4) Final exam – Watson and company will get a good test against a Rams defense boasting Pro Bowlers in cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, perhaps along with defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh. Former Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is now in year two with the Rams in the same position, and the expectations for success are high in Los Angeles. Tight end Ryan Griffin said the Rams are stout on that side of the ball.
"Absolutely," Griffin said. "They dumped a lot of money into their defense. We got a big challenge ahead of us Saturday, and we're looking forward to it."
When Talib met with the Los Angeles media earlier in the week, he said he'd likely "get a handful of plays" in Saturday's game.
Seeing the Rams defense and getting challenged by its first-team unit will be a nice August measuring stick for the Texans.
5) O-line cohesiveness- The offensive line, after a tough 2017, was reshaped in the offseason and has four starters different than last year's Week 1 lineup. Center Nick Martin is the only holdover on the starting unit, and he's helped lead the way on a team that hasn't allowed any of the Texans three quarterbacks to get sacked in 67 preseason pass attempts.
Continuing that progress is paramount to success in 2018, and O'Brien said the first unit will get a fair amount of reps against the Rams.
"That's one position that needs to play in the games, communicate what they're seeing, communicate with the quarterback," O'Brien said. "I think that really needs to happen whether they've played together for a long time or not. I think this group has gelled pretty well."