There was a moment in Saturday's preseason game that saw Mark Fenton playing right tackle and Brandon Frye occupying left tackle. Rashad Butler had just gone to the sideline with an apparent leg injury, which was the last thing Gary Kubiak wanted to see. Luckily, Butler came right back in for the rest of the drive.
That final push to win the game on Kris Brown's 25-yard field goal was about as clutch a preseason moment as you can imagine. It's not that winning is the most important thing this time of year, but additional reps in overtime was not what the Texans were interested in. The less exposure to injury, the better. Suddenly, Butler is an important cog in the Texans machine with Ephraim Salaam out a few weeks and no one else qualified to be the swing tackle.
Some puzzles have yet to be solved. Jacoby Jones can look brilliant, like he did on a 41-yard catch. He can also look like a rookie, which he did when he fumbled during a lot of east-west running on a punt return. Ahman Green hurt his groin on his first play, creating more mystery about his regular season reliability.
But the biggest question still centers around the improvement of the Texans running game. There was no Alex Gibbs reunion party on Saturday night. Houston struggled to get yards on the ground with Chris Taylor gaining 19 yards on 10 carries. There's no need to sound the alarm yet, but the Texans certainly need more work. The first team offensive line was only in the game for the first drive (11 plays). Chester Pitts and Eric Winston checked out after that as Sage Rosenfels engineered a blend of ones and twos into the endzone. Darius Walker and Steve Slaton ran well but we need to see some results with the first team opening the holes.
The defense played bend-but-not break most of the night. It was exhilarating to see Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans get backfield penetration on a negative play on Denver's first series. The Broncos went backwards. But they bounced back on the next drive, largely on the arm of Jay Cutler, who eventually ran 15 yards into the endzone for Denver's only touchdown. The defense held up in the red zone on every other occassion, including the sudden change situation after Jones's fumble.
This next two weeks against the Saints and Cowboys will be monster tests for the defense. Extra work in practice with New Orleans should help the offense as they continue the zone blocking rehearsals. Stay tuned.