Here are five things to watch for in the Texans' second preseason game against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night at Reliant Stadium.
Running back rotation: Arian Foster and Ben Tate returned to practice this week after missing time with hamstring injuries. Both are expected to play, which would be a boon to a Texans backfield that has been riddled by injuries.
Chris Ogbonnaya, a practice squad player in 2010, was the Texans' only available running back against the Jets on Monday night. The Houston Strake Jesuit and University of Texas product scored two touchdowns and accounted for 104 of the Texans' 221 yards of offense.
Foster likely won't get more than a few carries. Tate, who missed his rookie season last year with an ankle injury, could be in line for more. The Texans have been eager to see him get on the field in training camp, and Tate is eager to show the team and fans why the Texans spent a second-round pick on him in 2010.
Derrick Ward (concussion) and Steve Slaton (hamstring) are unlikely to play.
Young LBs: Several Texans linebackers stood out against the Jets and will be looking to follow up on their performances tonight.
Bryan Braman, an undrafted rookie from West Texas A&M, led the Texans with six tackles and had 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble on Monday. Steven Friday, another undrafted outside linebacker from Virginia Tech, also had 1.5 sacks.
Outside linebacker Jesse Nading earned praise from Kubiak after recording a sack and forced fumble. Inside linebackers Xavier Adibi, who had two sacks, and Darryl Sharpton, a second-year pro out of Miami, have come on come on strong in camp under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
The Texans will have at least six linebackers active on gameday during the 2011 season. Players like Adibi, Nading and Braman are making a case for eight or nine to be active.
'Wide' open competition: Undrafted rookie Lestar Jean got more reps in practice this week after catching two passes for 53 yards against the Jets. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said Thursday that Jean, who's now competing with Dorin Dickerson for the fourth receiver spot, handled the reps well. The former Florida Atlantic star will get an extended look in tonight's game.
The competition at wide receiver remains wide open after Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones. The Texans have 11 total receivers competing for five or six roster spots. Along with Jean, undrafted rookies Jeff Maehl (Oregon) and Terrence Toliver (LSU) are looking to impress. Dickerson, Derrick Townsel and Trindon Holliday are in the mix as well.
Offensive test: Ever-aggressive Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams brought the heat in New Orleans' preseason opener against the 49ers. Even though it's the preseason, the Texans expect Williams to continue to dial it up in tonight's game and bring pressure from all angles.
The Texans' first-team offense didn't exactly light the world on fire in their one quarter of action in the preseason opener. They'll likely play close to two quarters against the Saints and their 4-3 defense, a big preseason test for Matt Schaub and company.
There are depth issues at guard for the Texans with Kasey Studdard and Antoine Caldwell, their top backups, out indefinitely with ankle injuries. Second-year guard Shelley Smith and rookie tackle Derek Newton could help to fill the void.
Second run for D: In both of the last two years, the Saints preseason game gave the Texans a glimpse of things to come by exploiting weaknesses in Houston's defense. Two years ago, New Orleans ran wild against the Texans, who later had a tough time stopping rushing offenses in the early part of 2009. Last year, the Saints' passing attack put up big numbers, and we all know what happened to the Texans' pass defense on the way to a 6-10 season.
Tonight is a great opportunity for Wade Phillips' players to show they have truly righted the ship. After racking up seven sacks and spending a lot of Monday night in the Jets' backfield, the Texans' 'D' has a much bigger challenge against the high-flying Saints.
Keeping the Jets' first-team offense out of the end zone was a nice start, but that was in limited action. Now, the Texans' starters have to deal with Drew Brees for perhaps a couple of quarters. And it's not like Mario Williams, Connor Barwin, J.J. Watt and friends have to register big sack numbers to impress. A handful of negative plays, key stops and a point total of 10 or less in one half of play would be nice. – Marc Vandermeer