The Texans will take on the Saints on Saturday night in PRIMETIME, baby! As I've seen every day in camp and every play in camp, I thought I could give you a few things/players to watch by position, updates on who might be playing or not. Sound good? Let's rock.
The good news is that we will see Davis Mills at quarterback, but for how long? My guess is that it could be a series or two, but not more than that. Then, it'll be Jeff Driskel time for nearly three quarters as Kyle Allen is dealing with COVID and will miss the opener. I don't need but one GOOD series from Mills and then Driskel, who has had an excellent camp to this point, honestly, takes over for the rest of the night.
The mix at this position for the first preseason game is sort of a mystery, especially with veterans Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead. I loved what I saw from both veterans in camp and keeping them healthy is PARAMOUNT this season. But, getting tackled, complete and full-to-the-ground tackled, isn't something I'd like to see for my running backs in week one of the regular season. So, my thought is that they may play a bit, but if even they do, it won't be for long on Saturday night. That means Dare Ogunbowale, rookie Dameon Pierce, Royce Freeman and new acquisition B.J. Emmons will get plenty of totes. For Pierce, in particular, this is the first time to put on the Texans jersey, name on the back, play in front of an NRG crowd AND, most importantly as I've mentioned, get tackled. He gets to work on ball security too and the opportunity to make a rookie statement to get the Texans fans hyped as well. I'm curious to see Emmons who was effective playing in the USFL this spring - he's got good size and quickness running inside.
I'd imagine that all three fullbacks will see plenty of time and maybe, just maybe, there's a carry or a reception out there for either Paul Quessenberry, Andy Janovich and/or rookie Troy Hairston.
If I were a betting man, I wouldn't bet on WR Brandin Cooks playing but if he does, it'll be two to three plays, or one reception, whichever comes first. Rookie Drew Estrada and Chester Rogers have been banged up lately and missed practice the past few days, unfortunately, so I don't expect to see either the Rookie or the Vet. I wouldn't expect to see Nico Collins for much time, but maybe just as much time as Mills in the first quarter. Collins has been one of the top ten players at camp, perhaps top five, honestly, so keeping him out of harm's way, as much as possible, is a must. Keep an eye on #82 Connor Wedington and rookie #89 Johnny Johnson III. Neither one of them has missed a day, or a rep, and have really shined in practice lately.
I've seen enough from Brevin Jordan and Pharaoh Brown to put them in bubble wrap, however, the Texans do a lot from two tight end personnel groupings. Do the math; that means either Jordan and/or Brown will play for a bit or we'll see a lot of Mason Schreck and rookies Seth Green and Teagan Quitoriano. The latter was banged up to start training camp so the rookie from Oregon State is still just ramping up full speed, full-time.
Laremy Tunsil can just come over and be next to me on the sideline for this one. He's ready. Tytus Howard is coming back from a stint from COVID, so he might need a few reps against a different colored jersey while at tackle. With a number of players that can play center, I'd not expect Justin Britt to play a ton, if at all. Unfortunately, rookie first rounder Kenyon Green hasn't practiced in a while and won't play. The two players I'm most excited to see are rookie Austin Deculus and Scott Quessenberry. Both have really stood out in drills and one-on-ones in training camp so I want to see that carry over to game situations, especially as they get a significant amount of time on the line throughout the game.
Maliek Collins doesn't need to see one play after the camp he's had and the same goes for veterans Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison. Everyone else? Let's party. I'm pumped to see Rasheem Green, the former Seattle Seahawk, in his first action in Houston. If he makes an early statement, he can come share a sandwich with me on the sideline and get ready for a trip back to his hometown next week. One sleeper (but not really, if you've read my Harris Hits) to watch is Michael Dwumfour. He's a problem for OL and this could be a great stage to show it off on Saturday for him.
The LB corps has been banged up a bit lately. Rookie Christian Harris has missed about a week or so of practice and I wouldn't presume that his status will change for Saturday. Garret Wallow missed some time this week too so I don't know his full situation. Furthermore, I don't know how much Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill will play, if at all. So, this becomes a true audition (and showcase) for a guy like Blake Cashman who has been healthy, and awesome, honestly, in camp.
Coach Lovie Smith already stated that rookie Derek Stingley Jr. won't play on Saturday so the fans will have to wait a bit to see him. But, he's made GREAT strides every day at camp. Rookie Jalen Pitre will seemingly get some time on the field, but he's a HUGELY important piece for this defense, even though he's never put on a Texans full uniform. I wouldn't expect much time from him. The rest of the group is relatively healthy and should be ready to roll on Saturday. My eyes will be fixed on the corners not named Steven Nelson or Stingley. Tremon Smith, Kendall Sheffield, Isaac Yiadom, Fabian Moreau and rookie Jacobi Francis have all made a number of plays in camp to get my attention, but have to really lock it down on Saturday night. Only one has ever put on a Texans uniform (Smith) so it'll be a different look to say the least, but a fun one at that.