Five things to watch: Texans at Redskins


1. Foster's encore:After rushing for a team-record 231 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1, what will Arian Foster do for an encore?

Foster, who 14 months ago was an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee, has 350 rushing yards and five touchdowns in two NFL starts. His first start came at the end of last season against the New England Patriots, six weeks after Foster was called up from the practice squad.

"He's got something to prove to people," fullback Vonta Leach, Foster's lead blocker, said. "He's a guy that sees the whole field. He's got great vision. He runs the zone scheme exceptionally well, and he's got speed and he's got power."

Foster's emergence should make things easier on the Texans' passing game, which didn't need much help in the first place. The Texans had the league's top-ranked passing offense last season despite having a rushing attack that ranked 30th.

If the Redskins stack eight men in the box to try to slow down Foster, it could lead to big days for Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson.

2. Chess match: Much has been made this week about the extensive connections between the Texans and Redskins' coaching staffs.

Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan mentored Texans head coach Gary Kubiak in Denver. Kubiak mentored Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Houston, where the younger Shanahan served as offensive coordinator from 2008-09.

Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and defensive coordinator Frank Bush are among several Kubiak assistants who also coached under Mike Shanahan in Denver. Redskins quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur and special teams assistant Richard Hightower are former assistants under Kubiak in Houston.

Will all the familiarity cancel itself out? Will Kyle Shanahan's knowledge of the Texans' personnel provide an advantage? Bush said he'll try to offset that possibility with some creative defensive packages.

"We go about doing our thing the way we do it, but we do have to show them different looks," he said. "They know what we do. They've seen our defense for quite some time. Kyle knows everything we do, so we'll show them a lot of different looks, move the safeties around, move some guys around up front, move Mario (Williams) around and make sure they don't get a beat on him."

3. Haynesworth effect: Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, a thorn in the Texans' side with the Tennessee Titans from 2002-08, is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. He was limited in practice all week after spraining his ankle on Wednesday.

Haynesworth played only 16 snaps last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys after a turbulent offseason with the Redskins' new regime.

"I think Albert is getting used to our scheme, the 3-4 scheme, and it doesn't happen overnight," Mike Shanahan said on Wednesday. "Obviously, he's a little bit behind relative to the offseason, but he's getting better every day and playing hard. I think we all know what type of athlete he is. Hopefully, he'll get more plays each game."

The Texans are familiar with the challenges posed by Haynesworth (6-6, 335), a two-time All-Pro with the Titans.

"(Center) Chris (Myers) of course played against him when he was at Tennessee," Kubiak said. "They're very good up front. They play a lot of guys, so we're going to see a lot of their players and not only Albert. We have to play just as well up front this week as we did last week."

4. Elusive target:The Texans' pass rush played an integral role in their victory over the Colts, sacking Peyton Manning twice and hitting him 10 times. They'll face a more mobile quarterback this week in the Redskins' Donovan McNabb, who had a 17-yard run in Week 1 against Dallas.

"Me myself, I hate quarterbacks that can scramble," Texans defensive end Antonio Smith said. "They're like a defensive lineman's worst nightmare because you can give your best rush and no matter how good the rush is, they can evade you and pick up a first down."

McNabb, 33, is making his second start in Washington after going to six Pro Bowls in 11 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. His blindside is protected by rookie left tackle Trent Williams, the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Oklahoma.

That Williams will try to slow down Texans defensive end Mario Williams, who harassed Manning to the tune of two half-sacks and five quarterback hits in Week 1.

"He's going to have another challenge of playing against Mario Williams, a guy who is rangy, quick, strong and has been a dominant force over the last couple seasons," McNabb said of his young left tackle, who had a good showing against DeMarcus Ware last Sunday. "It's going to be a challenge for him, and he knows that."

5. Next man up: Texans defensive tackle Amobi Okoye is questionable with an ankle injury, leaving open the possibility that rookie Earl Mitchell will make his first start.

Mitchell, a Houston native and third-round pick out of Arizona, has impressed coaches and teammates alike with his high motor and quickness of the ball.

"If (Okoye) can't go, then Earl has to go in and play big-time this week," Kubiak said. "He's a worker, so he got respect as a young player real quick because of how he goes about his job. Opportunity knocks in this league. That's all you can ask for."

Second-year defensive end Jesse Nading will continue to get more reps with Connor Barwin now on injured reserve. Nading fared well as Barwin's replacement last week, recording a half-sack and recovering an onside kick.

"You never know as a backup when you're going to get a chance to play," Kubiak said. "Nading is a great example of that last week."

Kubiak and Bush said that between Adewale Ogunleye and Ryan Denney, the two veteran defensive ends who signed with the Texans this week, only one will likely be active on Sunday.

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