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Houston Texans

Five things to watch: Texans at Saints


Running back Chris Brown will make his Texans debut on Saturday against the Saints.

METAIRIE, La. - Here are five things to watch for as the Texans look to improve to 2-0 in the preseason when they take on the New Orleans Saints in the Louisiana Superdome on Saturday night.

1. Strangely familiar foes:The Texans and Saints will be in the peculiar position of knowing each other's tendencies thanks to a week-long scouting report provided by practicing against one another three times this week at the Saints' facility in Metairie.

The Texans ran mostly base packages in the practices, and they expect that the Saints did much of the same.

"I don't think right now they are showing all that they're going to do," cornerback Fred Bennett said after Thursday's practice. "I think that's smart; they should save some stuff for the game. I'm pretty sure we'll be ready."

The players, though, are a bit divided as to how the joint practices will affect the game on Saturday. Defensive end Mario Williams, for one, feels strange about getting ready to play a team he's already gotten to know during practices.

"It's kind of crazy to me to basically show your hand through the whole week and show what you are going to do and show your tendencies, and then all of a sudden you play them on Saturday," Williams said. "You basically just gave them everything you had during the week."

Left guard Chester Pitts, meanwhile, expressed that he doesn't feel at a disadvantage because of the joint practice sessions.

"It can go either way," Pitts said. "You can either say, 'I know the guys a little bit better,' or maybe, 'I know what to expect.' The antithesis of that is that he's done the same thing. So it just depends on much he has studied.

"It will help me because I study and watch lots of film and prepare as much as I can."

2. Molden's first action: Rookie cornerback Antwaun Molden, a third-round draft pick out of Eastern Kentucky, will get his first taste of an NFL game after playing against small-school competition in college. Molden sat out the Denver game with tightness in his groin, but has been practicing all week and is ready to go.

"I feel well-prepared," Molden said. "I've been studying my playbook. I've been on top of things that coaches have been talking about in the meetings."

One of the top performers at the NFL Scouting Combine this year, Molden has the size (6-1, 197) and athletic ability to compete for a starting job opposite cornerback Fred Bennett. The rookie had a strong week of practice, including when he returned an interception of Saints quarterback Tyler Palko for a touchdown in 11-on-11 drills on Wednesday.

{QUOTE}"I was in the right position at the right time," Molden said of the play. "You have to continue to use good technique like coach (Jon) Hoke always talks about."

Rookie quarterback Alex Brink, the Texans' seventh-round draft pick out of Washington State, also will make his debut and is expected to play for the entire fourth quarter.

3. Chris Brown's debut: Texans head coach Gary Kubiak held running back Chris Brown out of the preseason opener after Brown had missed a week of practice leading up to the game with back spasms. Against the Saints, Brown will make his Texans' debut as the starting running back with Ahman Green sidelined by a strained groin.

"Every year you become a vet, you have to prove that you can still play and still go out there and prove you can make plays," Brown said. "It's really important when you're on a new team, a new organization, (to show) that you still have it."

Brown has battled injuries throughout his career, but averaged 4.3 yards per carry in five years with the Tennessee Titans. Brown first learned to run in a zone scheme during a standout career at the University of Colorado, and the Texans hope that his familiarity with the system will bring success as they look to improve upon the 3.9-yard per carry average in the preseason opener.

Though that number didn't meet the high expectations the team has for its running game under new assistant head coach Alex Gibbs, Kubiak was encouraged by the solid ground production in the fourth quarter last week and said that the team must continue to make improvements as it adjusts to the new scheme.

"It is different than what we've done in the past from a standpoint," Kubiak said. "Some of Alex's schematics, some of the things he teaches especially the fullbacks and backs, we're running the same plays but some of the reads are different, some of the cuts are different. So I think some of our guys are still getting used to that."

4. Better in the red zone:One of the Texans' focuses heading into this game will be improving offensive efficiency in the red zone after they scored only one touchdown in four red zone trips against Denver. Houston also turned the ball over twice in the red zone while practicing against the Saints on Wednesday.

"I've been disappointed in how we performed last week in the red zone and I was disappointed in how we practiced in the red zone (Wednesday)," Kubiak said. "That's something we are going to have to do a better job with."

Quarterback Matt Schaub, after coming up short of the end zone on his only drive against the Broncos, completed a red-zone touchdown pass to wide receiver Kevin Walter during the Wednesday practice. Schaub is expected to play for a quarter-and-a-half against New Orleans, so he should have more opportunities to find the end zone this week.

Backup Sage Rosenfels, one-of-two in the red zone last week, has thrown a touchdown pass in eight consecutive preseason games.

5. Jones ready for the spotlight:Second-year wide receiver Jacoby Jones has yet to rekindle the magic of his first preseason, but that could change Saturday night. A New Orleans native, Jones is bringing 26 family members, including his mother, aunt, uncle and cousins, to the game. One special guest, in particular, has Jones excited to put on a show: his grandmother, Lottie, who will see Jones play in person for the first time.

"I hope I can get in the end zone and get her a ball," said Jones, who last played in the Superdome in a high school all-star game. "That would mean a lot to me. I would give it to her.

"It's been a dream for me to come home, and I have always wanted to play in front of my home team and family. It's a blessing to come back and play in front of my grandmother."

Jones flashed his talent last week against Denver with a 41-yard reception that was the longest play of the game. But Kubiak was in the young receiver's ear about the importance of not trying to do too much. Jones fumbled a punt return in the third quarter after he had been swinging the ball on the play.

"That's something he's been doing, something we've been working on and something that he will get fixed," Kubiak said. "I promise, because whoever is going to be back there is going to protect the ball, and that starts with him."

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