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Five things to watch for – Texans vs. Cowboys

With the Texas showdown just a day away, here are five key players, position battles and things to watch for in Saturday's preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.


A lot to play for: When the Texans square off against the Cowboys, they will be playing for Texas football bragging rights, the legendary Governor's Cup, and for their spots on the roster.

Early next week, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak will trim down the team to 75 players. The Dallas game will factor in heavily to the decision-making process.

"The players can sense that with how many any reps they're getting and what's going on," Kubiak said. "So it's really hard as a coach, because they've been giving you everything they have. But that's part of the business, and we all deal with it."

The players, however, are trying to keep their focus on beating a physical Dallas team that has been tearing through its preseason opponents. In the Cowboys' two preseason victories, their defensive starters didn't allow a touchdown against Denver or Super Bowl champion Indianapolis. Dallas even pulled out the blitz in their 31-20 win over the Broncos.

"I've seen the preseason games when they (Dallas) played against Denver," receiver Andre Johnson said. "And, I mean, they just threw the whole package at them. So I think it'll be a good test for us."

Houston's big "D": The unit facing the biggest test is the Texans' defensive line. Texans coaches want the linemen to increase their pressure on the quarterback and become more effective at stopping the run.

"One of the things this week for sure, is that this team (Dallas) will run the ball right down your throat," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. "We're going to find out how stout we can be.

"We need to look at some guys- we need to get guys like (linebackers) Shantee (Orr) and Charlie (Anderson) more involved in some third and nickel pass situations, because they show the ability to rush the passer and they've both been in a battle to make this team at linebacker."

Receivers go deep: Coming into the preseason, Kubiak did not anticipate having many options at wide receiver. He pegged Johnson and Kevin Walter for starting duties, but the rest of the receiving depth chart looked like a blur of unknowns. Not anymore. Kubiak is looking at a group of receivers that oozes with potential.

"Did we know Jacoby Jones was going to make up this much ground- no," Kubiak said. "That's been a big plus. Did we know that Jerome Mathis was going to be on the field every snap this year- no. And that's been a big plus. You start to put that all together, and it's just a deeper, more well-conditioned group."

Now that receiving group wants to show how deep they go on the roster and how deep they can fly down the field. Walters and Johnson will get three quarters of playing time, but Jones, Mathis, Andre' Davis and Keenan McCardell will also get the opportunity to air it out.

"There's a lot of guys that can make plays, and it's exciting," Walter said. "We have a lot guys who can run- run downfield. It's exciting, and I'm glad to be a part of it for sure."

So is Johnson.

"I'm excited about it," Johnson said. "You know, it helps the team out a whole lot. It's great to have a bunch of guys that can make plays and have a lot of speed on the field."

Staring DeMeco: Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans is quickly garnering NFL star status. The 2006 Defensive Rookie of the year can find the ball and make hits with notorious speed and strength. Plus, he has style.

Ryans is ready to showcase that flair against one of the league's showiest players, Terrell Owens, as he steps into the role of leader of the Texans defense.

"As a middle linebacker you have to step up in there and make all the calls and checks," Ryans said. "The entire defense is counting on you to make the correct calls. So it's a position where you definitely have to be a leader.

"Me being the lead of the defense, I look forward to it and I hope the guys will just get on my back and follow me."

Kubiak has already jumped on board.

"I think he's the leader of our defense, and he's becoming the leader of our football team," Kubaik said.

Seeing Green: Kubiak said that running back Ahman Green is likely play 2 1/2 to three quarters against the Cowboys. The game could Green's last chance for significant action, because Kubiak plans to use the final preseason game against Tampa Bay to evaluate the backups like Ron Dayne and Wali Lundy.

So far, Green's been getting a limited number of rushing opportunities. The nine-year veteran is ready for a break through run against Dallas. And so are his coaches.

"We've got to create some cracks for number 30, and none tougher to try to do that than this group," Kubiak said. "It's a great challenge for us, but we've got to get him going."

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