Houston Texans 2011 Preseason Schedule: Full Preview

Kenneth DavisContributor IIAugust 11, 2011

Houston Texans 2011 Preseason Schedule: Full Preview

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    For the Houston Texans and their fans, things have been frustrating the last few seasons. Playoff hopes before the season, during the season (last year), towards the end of the season (2009) and every time it results in the same disappointment. The lockout kept Texans fans anxious to see what moves that were going to be made to improve our ball club to give us new hope for this upcoming season. After the April NFL Draft, undrafted free agent signings and a crazy free agency period, the Texans front office has giving fans hope once again.

    So here we are, Football is here and its time to see what The Texans have on the field. There are plenty of questions to be answered and the Preseason is the prefect time for that. The Texans have a lot of young players to evaluate, position battles to sort out, players to keep healthy and many more areas of concern. This preview will touch on all of those things and hopefully by the end of the Preseason, The Texans will have it all sorted out.

    Here is the Preseason Schedule:

     

    We will discuss the breakdown of what to expect in each game later but first...

Most Important-to-Monitor Position Battles

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    WR #2: Walter vs. Jones

    Obviously the #1 Wide Receiver position is locked in with Andre Johnson but that second receiver spot has been up for grabs the last couple of years. Jacoby Jones just received a 3 year/ $10 million deal and Kevin Walter got a new deal last year so the team plans to keep both for awhile. It will be interesting to see who wins the spot after the preseason is over.

    FB: Casey vs. Vickers

    We won't know exactly how much the departure of Vonta Leach will affect this team until we see how well his replacements play. That being said, there will be a battle for the Fullback position and it should be a good one. Vickers has the background of being a lead blocker while James Casey is a fan favorite and is known for his versatility. There should be a good battle going on throughout the preseason.

Most Important-to-Monitor Position Battles Con't

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    Backup RB: Ward vs. Tate

    Just like the Wide Receiver position, we know who the #1 guy is but there should be a good battle for the backup position. Ward played good enough last year for the Texans that they decided to re-sign him. Ben Tate was hurt all of last year and has been hurt during training camp this year. Tate was drafted in the 2nd Round so the Texans will give him a chance for a bigger role in the offense. so we will see who comes out on top. Steve Slaton is trying to keep a spot on the team this year too so don’t be surprised if he happens to out play both of them this preseason.

    CB: Jackson vs. Harris

    Kareem Jackson was not a fan favorite last year from the moment he got drafted. He also was not the only reason the Texans pass defense was last in most passing statistics in the NFL, but don’t tell the fans that. Well, he is back this year starting in the revamped secondary that Wade Phillips and crew have built. Brandon Harris was drafted in the 2nd Round this year to compete for that spot as well and he expects to have it by the time the regular season rolls around. Jason Allen also wants to be a starter again. This battle should be fun.

     

    Other position battles:

    • NT: Mitchell vs. Cody
    • OLB: Barwin vs. Reed
    • KR: Manning vs. Holliday
    • P: Maynard vs. Hartmann

Free Agent Acquisitions Fitting in and Position Changes

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    Free Agents:

    The two biggest Free Agents brought in this year were Danaiel Manning and Johnathan Joseph. Two great pick ups for the Texans after a year of horrible play in the secondary. These two are going to be starters immediately and will bond together in the preseason. This secondary needed all the help it could get and it got two very good upgrades. We will see how everything comes together in this preseason.

    Lawrence Vickers was also brought in this off-season, not to improve bad play but to keep what was great last year from not getting worse. Vickers was signed to a 2 year/ $3 million deal, so it’s safe to say the Texans have plans for him in this offense.

    Position Changes:

    The biggest position change the Texans had in the off-season was Mario Williams going from a 4-3 DE to a 3-4 OLB. Williams, 6-7 and 290lbs, is a little over sized for the position but he came to camp leaner and ready for the challenge. He still needs to get acclimated to the position this preseason.

    Another move was made on defense when Glover Quin was taken from the CB position and placed at Strong Safety. This was a position fans have been wanting for Quin to play since coming out of college, hopefully it’s a smooth transition.

    Other Changes:

    James Casey from TE to FB

    Antonio Smith from a 4-3 DE to a 3-4 DE

Draft Picks

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    J.J. Watt:

    Watt is the only draft pick that has a starting job right now. He is a high motor guy that is prefect for the 3-4 Defense that Wade Phillips is bringing in. It should be fun to see him play this preseason and beyond.

    Brooks Reed:

    If Mario Williams or Connor Barwin don't meet expectations at OLB, Brooks Reed will be the 1st one to replace them. He is a natural for the position and should have a nice career. Reed will be brought in a on some situations where they want more pass rushers in the game so he will get game experience. Fans will see a nice player this preseason when he is in the game.

    Harris and Carmichael:

    Once again, the Texans draft two Cornerbacks. I guess you keep drafting them until you get a pick right. The Detroit Lions did it until they finally got Calvin Johnson so....never mind. I talked about Harris a little bit in the previous slide and at minimum he will be the nickel corner. Roc Carmichael expects to get a lot of playing time too. He is a nice solid player and will fight to make this team.

    Other Draft Picks:

    T.J. Yates: Has the 3rd QB spot but can he impress enough to make the team or be put on Practice Squad for a year?

    Shiloh Keo: Battling for the backup Strong Safety spot with Dominique Barber.

    Derek Newton: An Offensive Tackle with raw talent, can he make the team?

    Cheta Ozougwu: At OLB, you can never have enough pass rushers on your team.

Young Players and UDFAs

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    Dorin Dickerson:

    With the departure of David Anderson, the 4th WR spot is wide open. Drafted in the 7th Round in 2010, Dickerson was a project after playing Tight End in college. He is a big receiver with good hands, but can he improve his route running to keep his spot.

    Antoine Caldwell:

    Last year, Caldwell was in a battle for the Right Guard spot with Mike Brisiel. After Brisiel's injury, Caldwell has kept the job. It will be nice to see him improve this year so the right side of the line can catch up to the left.

    Darryl Sharpton:

    With the absence of  Brian Cushing in training camp, Sharpton has stepped up. So far he has played well and will be interesting to see how they will get him in the game this year. He can secure his spot on the team as the next Linebacker off the bench just like Kevin Bentley has done the last couple of years.

    Troy Nolan:

    Nolan's opportunity to start pretty much went away with the addition of Manning and Quin moving to safety but he is still a nice player. His growth this preseason is key to the secondary in the case of an injury.

    Terrance Tolliver:

    A big Receiver out of LSU, Tolliver has the best chance to make the team out of all the UDFAs. Texans fans should be excited to see him on the field this Preseason.

    Other young players to look out for:

    Lester Jean

    Jeff Maehl

    Chris Ogbonnaya 

Recovering Injured Players

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    The defense had a lot of key contributors injured last year. This preseason is their time to show if they are fully recovered and ready for another 16 games and maybe more. Our 4 starting Linebackers are all coming back from injuries and/or off-season surgeries. How will Mario Williams recover from his injury? He always seems to have some type of injury every year but he seems to play through them. Last year was different as he had to be put on IR at the end of the season. We will have to see how it affects his play as he will have to have a burst off the end on every play at OLB. DeMeco Ryans is also recovering from an Achilles injury that’s difficult to come back from. He will have to show that this injury will not prevent him from having another Pro Bowl year. Connor Barwin seems to be fully recovered and ready to go but Brian Cushing still has yet to fully practice.

     

    Other Injured Players:

    Ben Tate

    Owen Daniels

    Trindon Holliday

Potential Weak Spots

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    NT:

    Earl Mitchell or Shaun Cody will have a lot of responsibility this year in Wade Phillips 3-4 Defense. For players who have never done anything great in the NFL, Philips must have a lot of confidence in one of them. It’s safe to say one of them will be our nose tackle but not safe to say we will be satisfied with their play.

    #2 WR:

    I mentioned in a previous slide about the battle going on for the #2 WR spot. Honestly, we are going to need better play from that position. Either Jones is going to play better and starts or Walter remains in the spot and we continue to get average play opposite of Andre Johnson.

    Punter:

    There weren't many punters in the same class as Matt Turk was in last year but Brad Maynard joined him with ease. That’s not a good thing people. Field position was awful last year so better play from this position is crucial. Maynard was signed in the off-season to compete with UDFA Punter Brett Hartmann.

    Other Spots:

    DL Depth

    ILB Depth

Surprise Breakout Player

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    Last year Arian Foster broke out in a major way. We saw some glimpses of it the last couple of games of the 2009 season but never expected him to lead the league in rushing. Will some one breakout like he did this season? Most likely there won't be someone making that big of a contribution but there is always someone that exceeds expectations. Some of my candidates are Ben Tate, James Casey and Connor Barwin. The person I would give an edge to is Jacoby Jones. Jones potential has been on display since he first came into the NFL and this might be the year that all the stars align and he meets his potential.

Potential Tough Cuts

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    RB:

    If the Texans only keep 3 Running Backs this year, Steve Slaton might end up being the odd man out. If he is, maybe there is a team out there that would trade a late round pick for him.

    WR:

    After Johnson, Walter, Jones and Dickerson, there is a battle for that 5th WR spot. Terrance Tolliver, Jeff Maehl, Lester Jean, Paul Williams and Derrick Townsel all can’t make the team and that’s a shame because they are all young and talented players.

    CB:

    Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson will make the team this year so that leaves three open spots. Harris, Molden, Carmichael, McCain, McManis and Jason Allen can’t all have spots on the team. Even if Harris and Carmichael make the team, that leaves one spot for Molden, McCain, McManis and Allen. Expect all of them to give their best effort and try to secure a spot on the team.

Conclusion

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    Game #1 against the New York Jets, the starters aren't expected to get much time on the field (maybe 10 snaps) so use this time to evaluate a lot of the younger players on the team.

    Game #2 against the New Orleans Saints, the starters will play about a quarter and take the rest of the night off. A lot of time will concentrate on the 2nd team players. Players like Brooks Reed, Brandon Harris, Dorin Dickerson and Jacoby Jones will have a lot of time on the field.

    Game #3 is the best dress rehearsal the preseason has to offer. The game will be played with 2-3 quarters designated for the starters and finished off by the 2nd teamers. This matches up perfectly against a team like the San Francisco 49ers.

    Game #4 is for all the young players. It’s primarily for Rookies, UDFAs and all players fighting to make the team or impress another team to add them to their squad. This game will be played against the Minnesota Vikings.

    Leading into these preseason games there are a lot of questions to be answered but I’m sure that most of them will be addressed before we reached the regular season. Hopefully we can stay healthy and start the regular season strong. The first 6 games of the regular season is our toughest stretch and we need to be at full strength. Ultimately, the way the preseason and the regular season turns out will fall in the hands of the guy on the left. If you go to any preseason games, enjoy the game as much as you can. Don't hesitate to give your opinion in the comments. Thanks.