Vandermeer's View: Texans lose, learn and look ahead

The third preseason game is supposed to be the one that resembles the regular season more than the rest. Yet what we saw on Saturday only gave us tiny glimpses of what's to come.

Let's start with the defense. The Texans fielded mostly starters for the first time and took advantage of the Rams' second offensive unit as Kareem Jackson's pick led to a quick touchdown with point blank field position for Alfred Blue's run.

Tyrann Mathieu told us during the broadcast that the crew on his side of the ball was disappointed they didn't get another pick, which would have created another huge field position boost while Deshaun Watson was still in the game.

Watson went 3-for-6 with an interception on a deep ball. The following series he had a first down pass to Ryan Griffin wiped out by a holding penalty. That was followed by another holding penalty on a Watson scramble. Things up front will have to get cleaned up. 

The offense sputtered early but Bill O'Brien got his players past this game mostly healthy and ready to prep for the opener in two weeks. He knows what's needed on the offensive line and he knows Watson will take good care of the football when the games count in the standings. It'll be interesting to see how they evaluate rookie tackle Martinas Rankin, who got his first taste of NFL action after a positive introductory week of practice. 

Brandon Weeden was slow to get going until the final drive of the second quarter when he found Braxton Miller for the tying score to make it 14-14 at the half. He gave way to Joe Webb, who once again generated some late fireworks. Had Nick Rose made a 57-yard field goal as time expired, we might be calling Webb the comeback king.

Maybe we should anyway. Webb made some big plays to set up the field goal attempt. That in itself was a mini-win, in a preseason context, as the offense looked clunky for many of its possessions. Webb is hardly a polished NFL starter, but he does make things happen and is about as fun an August NFL story you will get. 

There's not much to dissect defensively. Not with Sean McVay resting his offensive playmakers and the Texans defensive front liners leaving the stage after Jackson's interception. The Rams ran for well over 100 yards on the Texans reserves. But the yards per carry number was only 3.8.

Texans special teams yielded the longest kickoff return of the preseason, courtesy of Troymaine Pope, who rumbled up the right side 44 yards. Brad Seely has Thursday night to take another look at what he has. Yes, the starters won't play but special teams is still a front-line showcase in the 4th preseason game. 

The coaches could give you most of the 53-man roster right now. There are some tough cuts that could come down to Thursday night. 

Wide receiver appears to have the most bubble players. DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Keke Coutee are locks. Bruce Ellington makes plays and Sammy Coates looked good again today. Braxton Miller is the team's leading preseason pass catcher with nine receptions. And Vincynt Smith, Jester Weah and even Quan Bray have all had moments. The last three spots will certainly come down to special teams. 

It'll be a busy night in the NRG Stadium offices after the Dallas game.

See photos as the Texans get ready to face the Los Angeles Rams. Arrivals photos are presented by Palais Royal.

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