Texans Preseason Game Preview: Top 5 Things Against The Cardinals
This week the Houston Texans prepare to face the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday evening’s first preseason game for the organization in 2010.
Knowing that a team’s performance during most preseason games is not that significant in determining the outcome of the regular season, that is unless there is a major injury. There are still several attributes of this weekend’s game that can point to how well this team will fair in the 2010 season.
Here are the top five things that could be indicators of how the Texans regular season will unfold.
Back Up Quarterback
Sixth year veteran, and second season Texan, Dan Orlovsky will take the majority of snaps against the Cardinal's defense on Saturday.
His ability to read, react, and distribute the ball will be under a microscope. During training camp up to this point he has raised more concerns then confidence. This weekend will be an opportunity for Orlovsky to prove he is capable of stepping in for last season’s passing leader Matt Schaub.
If Orlovsky comes out and makes poor decisions with the ball, look for him to be supplanted by the third string quarterback on the roster for the second season in a row.
This year instead of Rex Grossman who left for the Redskins with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. It will be sophomore undrafted free agent from Southern California John-David Booty. Booty has had a consistent training camp, and when given the opportunity this weekend look to see if he can prove his ability on the field against Arizona.
The Texans are looking for their defensive ends to make a real miserable impact on the regular season in 2010. However, so far in training camp the position has been riddled with injuries.
First overall pick in the 2006 draft Mario Williams has just returned to practice from a hip injury. After seeking a second opinion he has been cleared to play in Saturday’s game. Head coach Gary Kubiak stated earlier this week that we can expect to see Williams on the field for 10-12 snaps.
Last season Mario was plagued by a nagging shoulder injury nearly the entire season. This injury held the Pro Bowl defensive end back, and raised questions about his productivity. This team needs Williams to be 100 percent during the regular season, and should consider allowing him all the necessary time for his hip to heal before putting him on the field.
Another Injury to the unit is Williams’ back up Tim Bullman. Bullman a sixth year veteran from Boston College has been a consistent in the rotation for the last three seasons.
The load will rest on sophomore Connor Barwin, and veteran Antonio Smith who is returning to Arizona to wreck some havoc. Look for these two to make a real impression on how this unit will produce throughout the 2010 regular season.
Corner Back Coverage
Saturday’s game against the Cardinals will give the Texans corner backs an opportunity to test themselves against one of the best receivers in the league in Larry Fitzgerald.
First round pick from Alabama Kareem Jackson will not be attending the game due to a death in the family. This will put sophomores Glover Quin and Brice McCain as the starting corners during the preseason opener in Arizona.
Quin from New Mexico stood out last season, and earned a starting job on this roster. He lead the team in passes defended with 11, and did not have a touchdown scored on him all season. He is receiving tons of love from his coaches and the media so far this preseason.
McCain will be wearing a new number this season switching from 41 to 21.
Let’s watch this weekend and see how Quin responds to covering opposing team’s number one receivers in hopes that he is the real deal, and not just media hype in response to Kareem Jackson's apparent lack of readiness to fill that role.
The Running Game
The Texans are going to have to present a decent running game early and often during this preseason opener.
Remembering the one yard line stance the Cardinals defensive line accomplished against the Texans during the fifth game of the 2009 season, watch to see who pushes who on the line of scrimmage. The Texans offensive line is going to need to show fluid zone blocking, and be able to push the pile in short yardage situations.
Sophomore starting running back Arian Foster will have the opportunity to prove he deserves the spot. Third year running back Steve Slaton will need to show he can hold on to the ball. Rookie from Auburn Ben Tate has to break out and flash his ability on the field, because third year running back from Arizona Chris Henry is breathing down his neck.
Watch to see who has a more impactful game between Tate and Henry as these two fight for the third spot on this roster.
Cushing’s Stand In
While sophomore defensive rookie of the year Brian Cushing sits out the first four games due to a league mandated suspension for testing positive for HGH, someone is going to have to fill the void.
Second year linebacker from Virginia Tech Xavier Adibi is also going to be sidelined with a strain to his groin for at least four weeks. Adibi was the favorite to fill Cushing’s shoes while he satisfied the suspension.
Option number two, veteran linebacker Danny Clark is injured as well, and will not participate in the game. Clark was signed for a second time by the Texans to add depth while Cushing was out.
The starting role for the first two games will probably fall on the capable shoulders of special team’s standout Kevin Bentley. A ninth year veteran who spent the last two learning the scheme of the Texans defense has an exuberance that is always fun to watch.
One of the captains on the team, Bentley should not have any problem plugging the gap while Cushing is away. Look for him to start working his way in with the first team during the game on Saturday.
In addition to the top five things to look for here are some other areas of interest that you should keep in mind.
First, the defensive tackle battle between first round pick Amobi Okoye and third round rookie Earl Mitchell. Watch to see who creates more pressure for Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart.
Second, the offensive guard competition between starter Antoine Caldwell, and free agent from the Chiefs Wade Smith. This is a battle that is close to dead even so far, and this game could impact the outcome moving forward during the rest of the preseason.
Third, safety Troy Nolan, we hardly know you. Show us something great.
Fourth, and could have been one of the top five things to watch. Can sophomore from Rice University James Casey block? We know he can catch, but he needs to show that he can seal his edge and create a running lane as well.
One thing’s for certain, there is a lot of buzz about how the Texans will do this season, and it all starts this Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals.