Here are five things to watch for when the Texans face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Reliant Stadium in their preseason finale on Thursday night . Kickoff is at 7 p.m. CT.
The game will be televised in high-definition on ABC-13 (KTRK) and will simulcast on SportsRadio 610 AM and KILT 100.3 FM. Tune into Texans TV 90 minutes before kickoff and immmediately after the game to watch live pregame and postgame shows on HoustonTexans.com
Last kicks:Thursday night's game will be the final chance for Kris Brown and Neil Rackers to gain an edge in the neck-and-neck competition to be the Texans' kicker.
Both kickers are 4-of-4 on field goals this preseason. Both have made kicks from long range – Rackers from 52 and Brown from 43. Both have been perfect on extra points. Both struggled on kickoffs two weeks ago at New Orleans, and both kicked off much better last Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys.
Brown is dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right kicking foot, but he kicked through it versus Dallas and has played through it in the past.
"It's been competitive amongst Kris and Rack," special teams coordinator Joe Marciano said. "They've also developed a good rapport. By the same token, man, the competition has brought out the best out of each kicker, and both of them are striking the ball in midseason form right now."
The Texans will cut their roster from 75 to 53 players after Thursday's game. Texans coach Gary Kubiak said that deciding between the two kickers will be the hardest cut to make.
"I make it because I have to make it," he said. "I've got to do that Friday. I'll weigh every factor. I'm no kicking guru, but I've been watching the kickers and what they do. I'm watching every kickoff in practice, which one I think fits best with our team. And that's the one we're going to go with, and like I've said, the other one's going to end up kicking for somebody else. It's no fun making that decision, but I've got to make it."
Orlovsky's time: Quarterback Dan Orlovsky is in line for his first start and most extensive playing time of the preseason. Third-stringer John David Booty, who Kubiak indicated has been dealing with an undisclosed injury, may play as well.
"Dan's going to basically play the game," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said on Tuesday. "Booty did practice today, so that was a move forward. That means that hopefully he'll get time in the second half. But Dan needs to play a lot."
Orlovsky has an 88.6 passer rating through three preseason games. He's 27-of-44 (61.4 percent) for 294 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions and has not committed any turnovers. In the 2009 preseason, his first with the Texans, Orlovsky threw three interceptions and lost one fumble.
"He's had a good camp," Kubiak said. "He's a better player. He's been more consistent, he's protected the ball. He's got to go out there with a bunch of young players this week and lead them and so it's a big night for him, but he's a much better player."
Run for your life: With Steve Slaton out with a toe strain and starter Arian Foster unlikely to play, running backs Jeremiah Johnson and Chris Henry will have featured roles in Thursday night's game.
"Those two guys will have to step up and make this team this week," Kubiak said. "I know we've only got four (running backs), but that doesn't mean that's our four. So this is a big, big game for Jeremiah and for Chris as we head into the season."
Johnson (5-9, 214), an undrafted free agent in 2009, has moved up to third on the depth chart. He missed his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury after averaging 6.7 yards per carry in four years at Oregon. He led the Texans with five carries for 33 yards in the preseason opener and gained 53 yards on nine carries against the Cowboys.
Henry (5-11, 233) has only four carries for eight yards this preseason, but he has shown bursts of talent in practice and shown up on special teams.
"Jeremiah has shown good run ability; needs to shore himself up in all the other phases of the game to go out there and work with Matt Schaub and those guys," Kubiak said. "Henry continues to do a few good things for Joe (Marciano)."
All right now: Heading into the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, it looks like only one full-time starting position is still up for grabs. That position is right guard, where Antoine Caldwell and Mike Brisiel will conclude their offseason-long competition on Thursday night.
"They're going to basically go head-to-head in this game, and it's very close," Kubiak said. "They've both done good things and we'll name that starter after the game, but they're both going to play a great deal in the game."
Caldwell (6-3, 311) entered camp as the starter. A third-round draft pick from Alabama in 2009, he played in 11 games and started three as a rookie.
Brisiel (6-5, 302) started 25 consecutive games at right guard for the Texans from 2007-09, a streak that ended last season after he suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 5. Playing through lingering pain in his foot this offseason, he has taken snaps at multiple positions and could be a valuable backup option at all three interior spots depending on the results of the competition.
Diamonds in the rough: Most of the Texans' starters will play sparingly – if at all – in the game.
"I'm going to play all my young guys," Kubiak said. "They deserve the right to play. They put in five weeks of work. They didn't get to play the other night (when) I played the veterans for three quarters. These young men deserve the right to go prove whether or not they can play for the Texans or whether or not they can play in the National Football League."
In last year's preseason finale against Tampa, quarterback Rex Grossman used a 197-yard, two-touchdown passing performance to vault past Orlovsky for the No. 2 job. Safety Jon Busing had six tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery to secure a spot on the final 53-man roster.
"I'll bet you that four or five guys come out of this game and make this team from this game," Kubiak said. "It happens all the time. There's always some diamond in the rough that steps up and does something."
Potential diamonds in the rough in tonight's game include Johnson and Henry; rookie wide receiver Dorin Dickerson, a potential fifth receiver and special teams contributor; Booty, depending on how much he plays; and undrafted rookies who have flashed in training camp and the preseason including defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard, linebacker Isaiah Greenhouse and safety Torri Williams.