The Texans host the 49ers Saturday night at NRG Stadium. It's the second preseason game 2018 for both squads, and here are five things to watch when things kick off at 7:00 p.m. CT. First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.
1) O-line in action – After a solid first go-round in the preseason opener at Kansas City, the Texans offensive line will look to continue improving on Saturday night.
The projected starting line of left tackle Julién Davenport, left guard Senio Kelemete, center Nick Martin, right guard Zach Fulton and right tackle Seantrel Henderson was on the field for 19 snaps at Kansas City. That time together, in union with what they've done throughout training camp and the joint practices this week against the 49ers has been positive in the eyes of head coach Bill O'Brien.
"Communication is getting better," O'Brien said. "We've got good guys up front that care about winning and care about doing the right thing, and that's half the battle. I think they're coming along just fine."
Henderson explained the goal for the line on Saturday night.
"Go out there and execute whatever our assignments are," Henderson said. "Whatever we got this week as far as game plans, just go out there and try and do it better than we did in practice."
Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden and Joe Webb combined to attempt 25 passes against the Chiefs, and none of them got sacked. The line also paved the way for a ground game that averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
2) QB Display- On both sides, the starting quarterbacks won't likely play a whole lot. Between Watson and San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo, those two played a combined 14 snaps in their first preseason games. Watson got five snaps for the Texans last week, while Garoppolo was on the field for nine against the Cowboys.
O'Brien said Watson and many of the other starters' reps "would be about the same" as they were in Kansas City, while 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said Garoppolo would get "maybe a little more" action than he did in the first preseason game of the year.
Regardless, the reserve signal-callers on each sideline will see the bulk of the reps under center. O'Brien liked what Watson and company were able to accomplish in the Wednesday and Thursday joint practices with San Francisco.
"We just ran about 150 plays in two days in 100-degree heat and those guys you're talking about, most of those guys got probably 50 reps in two days," O'Brien said. "So, that's just really good work."
After Wednesday's work against the 49ers, Watson described what part of his game he'd like to refine.
"Just quicker decision making and just continuing to work on my accuracy," Watson said. "Those are two areas that you can always continue to build on and get better."
3) Tight competition – Last week at the tight end spot, rookie Jordan Akins stole the show. The Central Florida product caught a pair of passes for 20 yards and two touchdowns.
But at times throughout camp, each of the other tight ends on the roster have shined. Ryan Griffin's been with the team since 2013. Stephen Anderson led the tight ends group in catches and receiving yards last season. Rookie Jordan Thomas has caused matchup problems because of his size and speed. Young veterans MyCole Pruitt and Matt Lengel have shown an ability to get open.
"It gives us an extra weapon on the field," Watson said. "We can go into a game with two tight ends, one tight end, and we have a lot of guys that can perform and go out there and run routes and make plays.
Trimming down the roster later this month will be a tricky endeavor, and how the tight ends fare in preseason action will likely go a long way in determining who makes the final 53.
4) Front seven players not named Watt, Clowney or Mercilus – J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus won't likely play against San Francisco, and if they do, they won't play much.
So the other members of the front seven will get their chances. Rookie Duke Ejiofor led the Texans with three quarterback hits against the Chiefs, and he wound up playing 28 snaps in that contest. It was his first game action since a December 29 Belk Bowl appearance for Wake Forest in a win over Texas A&M. Ejiofor described what it was like to finally get to work as a pro.
"It was happening so fast, and it felt so surreal because I've been waiting for this moment all my life," Ejiofor said. "To see it finally happen was an awesome feeling."
5) Secondary tests – Speaking of rookie defenders, safety Justin Reid will be one of many in the defensive backfield to keep an eye on Saturday evening. In his first bit of work as a pro, Reid registered a tackle and was on the field for the first three defensive series.
The first player chosen by Houston in this year's NFL Draft, Reid was a third round selection at 68th overall. The Stanford standout, according to O'Brien, has been impressive so far.
"I think Justin's a really mature guy who works hard," O'Brien said. "If he keeps that attitude, he'll get better every day."