After nearly seven months of revamping, reloading and retooling, the Texans offense is finally ready to take the field. This latest version of the Houston attack get its first taste of action against a squad that was in the Super Bowl about 18 months ago.
The overall objective in tonight's game is to give everyone a small dose of competitive NFL play, don't get hurt and win with whoever is on the field in the final moments. But let's face it, you want an early glimpse of what this offense can do, particularly the passing game.
Tom Savage gets the start after getting first team reps all offseason and training camp. Without showing too many of his cards, Bill O'Brien seeks to get the offense some success as they embark on phase two of training camp which features two intersquad sessions and a game against the Patriots next week.
Savage has seen plenty of preseason action but this is different. Every rep is important to demonstrate his progress with the starters and the improvement of an offense that averaged under 18 points per game last season. You wouldn't expect DeAndre Hopkins to be on the field long. But second-year wide out Braxton Miller and third-year receiver Jaelen Strong need some work after injury-shortened campaigns.
Preseason premieres really belong to the younger players. Rookies like Deshaun Watson are on an NFL field for the first time and you can imagine the magnitude of the moment. The QB's performance will be overanalyzed by every pundit in the nation. It's an important first step his development but just one ingredient.
He'll be out there with fellow 2017 draft picks D'Onta Foreman and Julien Davenport. But don't forget about some of the intriguing undrafted pass-catchers that will see time, like receivers Riley McCarron and Chris Thomson and tight end Evan Baylis, to name a few.
Houston has been a run heavy team under O'Brien. And it's unlikely the Texans quickly evolve in the greatest show on turf. But they are eager move their aerial game to a new level as they aim to dramatically up their 2016 touchdown pass mark of 15.
Let's not expect O'Brien to reveal much tonight. He'll save that for post labor day action. He does, however, want to get his quarterbacks clicking with their receivers and build quickly toward the regular season.
In the next 18 days, the Texans will have three games and another three practice sessions against other NFL competition. That's a solid opportunity to hone an offense that needs to be sharp, with two division games and two playoff teams on the agenda in the first five outings of the season.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 12/29/2020)