The Texans host the Lions on Saturday night at NRG Stadium. Both teams lost their preseason openers last week, and the two squads practiced against each other on Wednesday and Thursday at the Houston Methodist Training Center. Here are five things to watch when Houston and Detroit kick off the second game of their preseason slate. First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.
1) Mixing and matching: The Texans continue to search for the most effective combination up front on the offensive line. Last week in Green Bay, for example, first round pick Tytus Howard started at left guard, and then moved later in the half to left tackle. Many of his teammates up front played multiple spots on the line as well, and that will likely be the case Saturday night against Detroit.
Injuries to center Nick Martin and guard/center Greg Mancz have made it tougher for head coach Bill O’Brien and company to solidify what they want up front, but another week of work versus a different team should help.
“We're getting more towards where we believe it'll be,” O’Brien said. “Nick hasn't been in there, obviously, so that's a big part of it. Greg got injured last week in the game, so those guys are big parts of it. It's good that we have Zach Fulton who can play in there in center, but I'd say that is still a work in progress, but we're getting closer to what we believe it'll be.”
Veteran Matt Kalil missed some time earlier this week, and probably won’t play against Detroit. In his absence, Roderick Johnson’s taken advantage of the opportunity.
“Rod has had a good camp,” O’Brien. “He’s a strong player, great guy, he's worked hard. He's really earned the right to get those reps."
2) Get Carter: After missing all of May and June, and the first couple weeks of training camp, DeAndre Carter returned to work a few days ago and made plays.
“It feels good to be back out there, working with the guys,” Carter said. “I’m working to get better everyday and keep improving.”
He was claimed off waivers in early November last season, and Carter quickly got to work as the team’s primary returner and an option in the passing game for Deshaun Watson. Carter finished 2018 with 22 catches for 216 yards and a score in seven games. After missing the time on the field in OTAs and the early part of camp, Carter described what he’s been working on the last few days.
“Timing with Deshaun,” Carter said. “And route running.”
Carter, who led the team in yards per punt return last year with 9.1, after averaging 10.3 for the Eagles at the start of the season, was a welcome addition for O’Brien.
“I'm glad we have DeAndre Carter,” O’Brien said. “He's a good solid player, he's got good quickness, he's a strong player, he's a good punt returner. He averaged like almost 9.6 yards per punt return last year, which is a good drive starter when you can average almost 10 yards a punt return, so I'm glad we have got him.”
3) Speaking of receivers…: Carter saw quite a bit of action in practice with Keke Coutee out because of an injury. Behind DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, V and Coutee, Carter’s in a competition for the fourth, fifth and possibly sixth wide receiver spots on the roster.
Last week in Green Bay, undrafted rookie Tyron Johnson led the team with 48 receiving yards, picking up 44 of those on one reception in the third quarter. He’s had a competitive camp, and is in the mix with Vyncint Smith and a slew of others.
“He's dangerous with his speed,” receivers coach John Perry said. “So it's fun to have him around and he's been working really hard.”
Hopkins and Fuller won’t likely play much, if they play at all, so the group of young pass catchers should get ample opportunities.
4) Duking it out at RB: A week ago, the team traded for running back Duke Johnson, sending Cleveland a conditional 2020 draft pick. He hasn’t practiced yet, and will not play against the Lions. Like the rest of the starters, if Lamar Miller plays, it won’t be for too long.
That means the group of Taiwan Jones, Josh Ferguson, Karan Higdon and Damarea Crockett will see more action. That quartet all got carries last week, and Higdon led the way by gaining 37 yards and averaging 4.6 yards per pop.
Running backs coach Danny Barrett described Crockett’s strengths as a ball-carrier.
"The ability to get behind his pads, to run hard,” Barrett. “He's a big back and for a big back, he's shown he has nifty, good feet but also has a burst of speed as well."
Crockett and Higdon are both undrafted rookies, and according to Barrett, they share some similarities as ball-carriers.
"Similar to Crockett as far as getting behind his pads, downhill runner, quick feet in the hole and the ability to finish,” Barrett said. “That's what we like about both of those young guys, they like to finish falling forward, positive yardage and they're both tough and they're both sharp young men as well."
5) Eye on corners: Cornerback Bradley Roby impressed during his game reps in Green Bay, and according to O’Brien, he continued that this week in Houston during practice.
“You've got a guy that's played in the Super Bowl, has a lot of playing experience,” defensive backs coach Anthony Midget said. “That's what the younger guys are going to do, they're going to go to the veteran guys that have played some in the NFL and try to get some pointers from them."
He handled himself well versus the Packers, and will likely get some good tests against Matthew Stafford and the Lions early on Saturday.
Check out the best shots from Day 15 and the second joint practice against the Detroit Lions in Houston.