Preseason games are over and the Texans got better during the process. Four and a half weeks ago they began Training Camp practices and have undoubtedly improved since then. How much and what the impact will be cannot be answered until they start playing games September 10th.
For now, they'll take the 17-13 win over the Saints as a checkmark of getting certain elements of their game up to snuff.
C.J. Stroud and the first team offense orchestrated a scoring drive, set up by Tank Dell's 27-yard punt return to put them in business in Saints' territory.
Dameon Pierce had 27 yards on the drive, including a 13-yard smash that got the Texans in a goal-to-go situation. Along the way, Stroud would hit Dalton Schultz for a first down, converting on a 3rd-and-2.
Later, Stroud went to the end zone, finding with Nico Collins for a three-yard touchdown pass, his first of the preseason. Stroud's night was done after that.
The Texans saw the Saints tie the game as vets Jameis Winston and Jimmy Graham hooked up for a score. After intermission, Houston would once again benefit from outstanding field position, this time after a Desmond King sack thwarted a fourth down conversion attempt. Ka'imi Fairbairn hit a chip shot to retake the lead.
The Saints would tie it again on a 50-yard field goal in the second half. But E.J. Perry and the Houston attack got the ball back in the endzone on a Mike Boone 11-yard run.
Even though New Orleans would cut it to four with another triple and have shot after shot to retake the lead, the Houston D came up big with two picks in the 4th quarter, by Grayland Arnold and Cameron Dantzler.
This was the kind of night Houston needed. Stroud only threw it four times but the scoring drive passes were on the money and gave the coaches all they wanted to see. For now.
After giving up over 200 rushing yards last week, the defense was ready to pounce, holding the Saints below the century mark and racking up two sacks, two picks and ten quarterback hits.
It was notable how the Texans had to dig deep at center with Juice Scruggs exiting the game with an injury. And navigating through the evening with rookie punter Ty Zentner, filling in for Cameron Johnston, launching nine punts for a 43+ net.
Boone wrapped up a great preseason, leading the team in rushing and averaging 5.5 yards per run throughout August. He was also the team's leading receiver, with nine catches through the three games. Xavier Hutchinson was second with six, including a 24-yard reception that helped set up Boone's go-ahead TD run.
Now comes the hard part for Nick Caserio and DeMeco Ryans. They need to not only find the best 53 but make decisions and projections on players who are recovering from injuries.
Do you put them on IR, PUP or save them on the roster? What happens if you see players who have been cut by other teams that can help?
We'll all find out together in the next few days. We're a week away from Game Week for the Ravens. Plenty of items on the to-do list before we get there. We'll be here covering it all.