49ers vs. Texans: 3 Things to Look for in San Francisco's Second Preseason Game

Tom Smeaton@ByTomSmeatonContributor IIIAugust 16, 2012

49ers vs. Texans: 3 Things to Look for in San Francisco's Second Preseason Game

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    The San Francisco 49ers had a successful 2012 preseason opener by most accounts and will look to keep moving forward against the Houston Texans this Saturday at Reliant Stadium. 

    There were plenty of positives in the 49ers' 17-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings, but there are still a number of unanswered questions heading into the second exhibition contest. 

    The Texans, meanwhile, are coming off of a 26-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers and are looking to build off of their first playoff appearance (and victory) in franchise history in 2011.

    Preseason or not, this will be an important test versus a good team as the 49ers look forward to a tough regular season schedule. Of course, the preseason can't be used as a fool-proof measuring stick, but make no mistake: a lot can be learned on that field Saturday night.

    With that in mind, here are the three biggest things worth looking for when the 49ers take on the Texans.

The Role of Randy Moss

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    Coach Jim Harbaugh has been very public with his praise of Randy Moss this offseason, but the veteran wideout made little impact in his preseason debut in San Francisco.

    In fact, Moss not only failed to record a catch, but was not even targeted against Minnesota

    I understand not letting the cat out of the bag in the first game of the season—especially considering the recent revelation that the team plans to use Moss for only 20-25 snaps per game (via NFL.com).

    However, this is a 35-year-old player that did not suit up at all last season. Last we saw of Randy Moss, he was a little more than a decoy for the Tennessee Titans—a shadow of his former self.

    Moss doesn't have to shoot upfield for a 50-yard touchdown against the Texans, but it would be nice to see him catch a pass. If nothing more, it would be reassuring to see that he can still get open against an NFL defense, outside of a team practice.

    In the likely event, though, that Moss is again kept under wraps, there is still plenty of other wide receiver action to watch. Undrafted free agent Chris Owusu impressed in the opener, and it will be interesting to see who else steps up in what looks to be a bitter fight for roster spots. 

    Either way, the 49ers will have a tough decision when it comes to final cuts at the wide receiver position.

Facing a High-Powered Offense

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    Much has been made about the Week 1 matchup against the Green Bay Packers, but the 49ers face several formidable offenses in the 2012 regular season. 

    Including the Packers, the 49ers face four of the top five offenses in the NFL last year with Detroit, New Orleans and New England. The New York Giants, who also come to Candlestick Park in 2012, finished eighth in total offense.

    Without an injury to Matt Schaub, the Texans likely would have been in that discussion. With Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson steering the ship, this is one of the most balanced and potent attacks in the league. 

    In other words, this is a big step up from an underwhelming Vikings offense that was missing its best player in Adrian Peterson. Considering defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's displeasure with the first-team unit's performance last week, the 49ers' starters should come out fired up in Houston (via Pro Football Talk).

    With Peyton Manning and the new-look Denver Broncos on deck for the all-important third preseason game, look for the 49ers defense to rise to the occasion and get closer to last year's form.

The (Backup) Quarterback Controversy

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    Colin Kaepernick's 78-yard touchdown run made highlight reels across the country, but his numbers as a passer were a bit more pedestrian, albeit in limited action. 

    Last year's second-round pick went five-of-nine for 40 yards, which was much improved from his disastrous first preseason. However, it was 2011 undrafted free agent Scott Tolzien that showed the poise and presence of a veteran passer. 

    Many assumed that Tolzien was the odd man out when the 49ers signed Josh Johnson, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ultimately, Johnson attempted only four passes after being the last quarterback to enter the game. 

    The backup job is seemingly Kaepernick's to lose, but don't be surprised if Tolzien forces the issue with another strong showing. In addition, this type of development would severely jeopardize Johnson's standing on the final roster.

    Pay attention to the order that these quarterbacks appear in this week's game. While it may not be an ultimatum, it would be telling to see Tolzien again take third-team reps while Johnson takes on mop-up duty. 

    If last week is any indication, expect Tolzien to get a good look from Coach Harbaugh's staff against the Texans.


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    Simply put, this week's game against the Texans can not be overlooked as the 49ers continue their preparations for the regular season. 

    With three weeks to go before the regular season kicks off, there is obviously a lot of unsettled business in San Francisco beyond what was mentioned in these last three slides.

    In addition, position battles at receiver and running back are heating up, and the team has still not officially named a starting right guard. 

    So, with all this uncertainty, what else will you all be watching for on Saturday?