The Texans (1-7) travel to South Florida for a Week 9 matchup with the Dolphins (1-7). It's the first meeting between the two franchises since a Thursday night engagement in Week 8 of 2018, in which Houston was victorious at NRG Stadium. Here are five things to watch when the Texans and Dolphins kick off at Noon CT inside Hard Rock Stadium.
1) Taylor's return – For the first time since Week 2, Tyrod Taylor will start at quarterback. He injured a hamstring in the first half of that game at Cleveland, and Davis Mills has played in his place. But the hamstring's better, Taylor will start, and the veteran remains confident in his abilities.
"I feel sharp," Taylor said. "It was one thing that I was able to do once we were back to on-the-field work, was continuing to keep throwing. I had throwing sessions, whether it was with Pep (Hamilton), whether it's with our trainers, but definitely had to stay on top of that throughout the time off."
Taylor's return has been a big lift, psychologically, to the rest of the team.
"Just having his presence out there in practice, his command in the huddle, and just overall on the plays, it's great," RB Rex Burkhead said. "I've always been a big fan of his from afar throughout the league."
Only the Colts have allowed more passing yards in 2021 than the Dolphins, and Miami is very respectful of Taylor.
"Tyrod is a good player," Dolphins LB Elandon Roberts said. "When he was in Buffalo early in my career, I went against him a lot. He can throw, dual threat, obviously his running capability and stuff like that. Veteran quarterback in this league that has seen every defense and seen every coverage and seen every type of scheme thrown at him. I know for a fact, probably, that Houston is glad to have him back."
2) Re-run it? – With Taylor's return, it'll be interesting to see if the Texans are able to run the ball more effectively. In four games this season, they haven't gained more than 48 yards on the ground. Only twice have they cracked the century mark in that stat, and on the whole, the Texans are averaging an NFL-worst 3.3 yards per carry. Head coach David Culley said the Texans "were able to run the ball because of his ability to run" in the first two games of the season, and Burkhead explained Taylor's impact on the ground attack.
"It's huge," Burkhead said. "It helps open up other things for us. They've got to concentrate on him taking off and running with the ball. As running backs, we love that, because the focus isn't always on us in the run game."
In the Week 1 win over Jacksonville, combined with the first half of the Week 2 loss at Cleveland, the Texans ground game had 55 carries for 215 yards.
3) Young weapons – The Texans know who they have with WR Brandin Cooks: a Pro Bowl-caliber pass-catcher and the best player on the offense. But a pair of rookies in WR Nico Collins and TE Brevin Jordan are just getting their proverbial feet wet in the NFL, and last week they each turned in impressive performances. Collins caught four balls for 55 yards, with one of those catches going for 26 yards, and three of those catches getting the Texans a first down. On the season, he now has 12 catches for 166 yards.
"He is getting better and better," Culley said. "He's come back and he's kind of gotten so much better just from watching Brandin and those guys in front of him. He's doing a really, really good job for us right now, and he's progressing very well."
Jordan, meanwhile, was active for his first ever NFL game, and he quickly made an impact. The Miami Hurricane pulled in three receptions for 41 yards and a score. Collins was especially excited to see his fellow first-year pass-catcher perform well in his pro debut.
"First time being activated, and that man came out there and made a big time play for us, put six on the scoreboard," Collins said. "It was a great feeling. He's part of the rookie class, you know I was hype for him, for sure."
4) Tough on Tagavailoa – The Dolphins have had a tough 2021 thusfar, and second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa has completed 65.6 precent of his passes for 1,040 yards, with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Despite the won-loss record, Texans S Justin Reid is impressed with Tagovailoa
"He's a talented kid," Reid said. "I feel bad for him that he's struggled with so many injuries. He has an accurate arm. I still think he's trying to find his groove into the NFL, so they're taking care of him with the short passes, RPOs, that type of thing."
TE Mike Gesicki has been a favorite target, and he leads Miami in receiving yards with 475. Houston Episcopal High School product Jaylen Waddle is atop the Dolphins in catches with 48, and he's picking up 8.6 yards per reception. Overall, Texans DL Jacob Martin shared his thoughts on what the Dolphins are doing on that side of the ball.
"They have some cool pieces, some interesting pieces with Tua, RB Myles Gaskin," Martin said. "They have a big, physical o-line. Obviously, every week I'm excited for the challenge. It's another week to compete."
5) Turn up for turnovers – Houston and Miami don't just share 1-7 win-loss records. Both teams are minus-4 in the turnover differential category. Each squad has turned the ball over four more times than they've taken it away this season.
When the Texans are even or negative in turnover differential in a game, they're 0-6. In two games this year, they've taken the ball away more than the other team, and they're 1-1. When they've come up plus-2 or more, like they did in Week 1 against the Jaguars, they're victorious.
Miami, meanwhile, has turned the ball over two or more times in all but three games this year.
The next time you can see the Texans at NRG Stadium will be on November 28 as they host the New York Jets in Week 12. Kickoff is set for noon CT.Click here for tickets.