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Houston Texans

Vandermeer's View: A learning curve

Like most preseason games, the Texans 27-17 loss to Carolina had plenty of good and plenty of bad moments for the coaches to dissect and discuss with the players.

There were too many penalties (12) and breakdowns in protection to get overly excited about the offense. But there were a lot of flashes of what this attack is capable of once all the parts marinate together. Tom Savage and the 'ones' had early issues moving the ball, going 3-and-out their first two possessions. Then they got themselves moving with a 13-play drive that tied the game on Alfred Blue's 16-yard run. Savage shook off the rust, going 8-for-8 on the march.

That was it for the starters but the crowd erupted when the 'twos' came in. That's because Deshaun Watson was back in ACC country and the throng of number 4 jerseys were thrilled to see him. Watson has been making even the incompletions exciting in camp. He made some effective throws, operated the offense well, and darted into the endzone with a 15-yard third quarter TD run that pulled the Texans within seven.

Blue's performance should not be overlooked as he made a statement that he's still a more than viable part of the ground game. And D'Onta Foreman had a sparkling debut, averaging over eight yards per carry, thanks to some tough running and a speed-and-power showcase 41-yard blast.

The defense wasn't exactly full strength with J.J. Watt making only a cameo appearance and most of the rest of the heavy hitters playing only a couple of series. The second unit had problems stopping Joe Webb who threw two touchdown passes. There were some fine individual plays but Mike Vrabel will be quick to point out that a solid group effort is required to survive in the NFL.

The end result is a performance that will need to be a lot better when the Patriots visit the Greenbrier next week. That work will be crucial in further developing the offense, especially.

Wednesday night you certainly saw glimpses of what O'Brien calls 'playing fast.' He probably only had the throttle a little of the way down but there were times when you could see how effective the Houston up tempo game could be. And there's no better team to test this on than the Patriots, who know the script.

There are a lot of questions still. Will the passing game significantly improve enough to score on some of the tough early opponents? How does O'Brien handle the development of Watson, who looked special at times and showed the moment wasn't too big for him?

We'll all find out together in the coming weeks.

The Houston Texans take on the Carolina Panthers for the first preseason game in 2017.

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