Here are five things to watch when the Texans (1-0) take on the Miami Dolphins (0-1) in Week 2 at Sun Life Stadium.
1. Foster/Tate combo: Texans running back Arian Foster almost certainly will play in Week 2, but the question is how much.
Coach Gary Kubiak indicated Friday that Foster will have a smaller-than-usual workload at Miami, where he's expected to make his 2011 debut after missing Week 1 with a hamstring injury. Foster had a good week of practice, but Kubiak said he thinks Foster is "definitely not going to be a 60-play guy like he normally is."
Ben Tate will back up Foster and is "definitely going to play," per Kubiak. Tate had 24 carries for 116 yards in Week 1 as the Texans ran for 167 yards as a team.
Veteran running back Derrick Ward is out with a sprained ankle, so Tate could be in line for another substantial role depending on how Foster's hamstring feels on Sunday. Steve Slaton is available as the third running back.
No matter who gets the carries, the Texans will likely place a big emphasis on the running game. They ran the ball on 41 of their 65 plays against the Colts. The Dolphins allowed 4.8 yards per carry in Week 1 against the New England Patriots.
2. Opportunity for Jones: If Kevin Walter sits out because of his bruised right collarbone, Jacoby Jones will start as the Texans' No. 2 wide receiver opposite Andre Johnson.
Jones has started 11 games in his five-year career. He started the final three games of last season and totaled 17 catches for 235 yards, including a 115-yard game at Denver.
"I've been in this situation before, so I know I've got to buckle myself down and get ready to go to work," Jones said this week.
Jones set career highs with 51 catches and 562 receiving yards in 2010. He had three catches for 43 yards and a 79-yard punt return touchdown in Week 1. Kubiak said it has been fun to watch his development.
"Watching him come here as a rookie and where he's at right now, it's night and day," Kubiak said. "Here's an opportunity in his career to start... I know he's excited for it. It's like I tell y'all all the time, all you can ask for is a pro with a chance, and he's fixing to get a big opportunity if Kevin's not ready to go. He's working towards being successful."
Bryant Johnson, signed by the Texans late in the preseason, and David Anderson, signed earlier this week, are ready to contribute behind Johnson and Jones.
3. Second test for D: Wade Phillips' new 3-4 defense nearly pitched a shutout in a dominant performance in Week 1, keyed by two first-quarter turnovers and three sacks.
That was against a quarterback in Kerry Collins who had been with the Colts for less than three weeks. The Dolphins put up 488 yards of offense on New England. Quarterback Chad Henne threw for 416 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 30-of-49 passing. He also was Miami's leading rusher with seven carries for 59 yards and a touchdown.
"You have to be aware of him running," Phillips said. "You got to worry about him throwing it first, but he'll take you down and make a first down or run for a touchdown. You got to be aware of that."
Henne has a dangerous set of playmakers at his disposal in wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess and running back Reggie Bush. Marshall, a two-time Pro Bowler, had seven catches for 139 yards in Week 1.
"Brandon's an elite player in this league, and their tight end (Anthony Fasano) the other night was exceptional, made some great catches," Kubiak said. "They're playing different right now than they have as the Miami Dolphins. They used to be a big, physical run team. They're spreading the field and they got Reggie to go with it. We've got our work cut out for us from that standpoint. It's a totally different Miami look than what we've played in the past."
4. Watching Wake: Texans left tackle Duane Brown kept Dwight Freeney completely off the stat sheet in Week 1. Up next for Brown and the Texans is Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake, who ranked third in the NFL last season with 14 sacks.
Wake had three tackles and a sack in Week 1 against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
"He plays all over the place, so he presents a lot of problems for you," Kubiak said. "In nickel, he moves around and the way they play their 3-4, he plays both sides, so you're not going to lock him into one side. We could get locked up on him with some tight ends, some backs, as well as our tackles, but they're very good on both edges… They can go get the quarterback. They'll zero out a bunch. We'll have to protect Matt (Schaub)."
Wake, 29, is in his third NFL season. He spent two seasons in the CFL former after going undrafted out of Penn State in 2005.
5. Miami homecoming: Sunday's game will be a homecoming of sorts for more than one sixth of the Texans' active roster. Six Texans players went to the University of Miami – Johnson, center Chris Myers, tackles Eric Winston and Rashad Butler, linebacker Darryl Sharpton and cornerback Brandon Harris. Three Texans played for the Dolphins – guard Wade Smith, cornerback Jason Allen and linebacker Tim Dobbins.
Johnson, Myers, Sharpton and Harris are all from Miami. Johnson bought about 150 tickets for the game, costing him more than $12,000.
"I kinda get tired of going back; I have to buy too many tickets," Johnson said on Wednesday. "But it's fun to go back home and play in front of your family and friends."
Johnson had five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown in his last game at Miami in 2009. He torched the Dolphins for 10 catches, 178 yards and a touchdown at Reliant Stadium in 2008. It wouldn't be surprising to see the five-time Pro Bowler have another big game on Sunday.