HOUSTON (AP) New quarterback Brock Osweiler has undoubtedly upgraded the Houston Texans' offense as they prepare for Sunday's season opener against the Chicago Bears.
The question for the Texans is whether star defensive end J.J. Watt will be slowed by back surgery that kept him out all of training camp and from each of Houston's preseason games. Watt returned to practice this week after recovering from the procedure to repair a herniated disk, and insists he's feeling great and is ready to go . He expects the coaching staff to try to limit his snaps on Sunday, but vowed to fight against such a plan.
''I am going to try and play every single play,'' he said. ''I am going to play as hard as I possibly can ... obviously I have fresh legs right now. I'm going to carry this through the season.''
Watt was voted the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season after leading the league with 17 1/2 sacks in 2015. His performance helped Houston reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012, but a 30-0 loss to Kansas City in the wild-card round made it clear that the Texans needed an upgrade at quarterback.
They believe they found that in Osweiler, who started seven games for Denver last season before being benched for the playoffs in favor of Peyton Manning. Osweiler is comfortable in Houston and believes his preparation will keep any jitters at bay in his debut for the Texans.
''There's no nerves,'' he said. ''I believe if you prepare the correct way, what do you have to be nervous about? You've already played the game all week long. Now you just need to go connect the dots on Sunday.''
Chicago coach John Fox is very familiar with Osweiler after coaching him in Denver in the quarterback's first three pro seasons. He knows Osweiler benefited from his time learning from Manning.
''He understands at a high level how to prepare ... Brock's a very good athlete and has a good head on his shoulders,'' Fox said. ''It doesn't surprise me that Houston invested in him and that he's done a very, very fine job from what I've seen on tape.''
Some things to know about the first game between Chicago and Houston since 2012.
WHITE'S DEBUT: Finally, the Bears get to see how dynamic a receiver Kevin White will be.
The No. 7 overall pick in the 2015 draft, he missed his rookie season because of a stress fracture in his left shin. Chicago is counting on big things from White, with his size and physical skills.
If he delivers, the Bears could have a dynamic tandem with Alshon Jeffery. That's also assuming Jeffery stays healthy after calf, hamstring, groin and shoulder problems limited the former Pro Bowl receiver to nine games last season.
HELPING HOPKINS: Rookie receivers Will Fuller and Braxton Miller will make their debuts. The Texans drafted both players this year to take some pressure off DeAndre Hopkins, who was third in the NFL with a career-high 1,521 yards receiving last year despite dealing with near-constant double teams. Coach Bill O'Brien has been impressed with their progress and believes they're ready to contribute.
LINING UP: The Bears will have some extra ammunition to combat Watt. They signed three-time Pro Bowl left guard Josh Sitton on Sunday after he was a surprise cut by Green Bay, giving their offensive line a big boost.
With three-time Pro Bowl lineman Kyle Long on the right side, Chicago now has two elite guards protecting quarterback Jay Cutler and opening holes for the running backs. One thing the Bears will need to find is chemistry. They go into their second straight opener shuffling their line; r Long was a late switch to right tackle a year ago after Jordan Mills got cut.
Long returned to practice Monday after being sidelined since the second preseason game by a shoulder injury. He also signed a four-year contract extension through the 2021 season on Wednesday.
BROWN REMAINS OUT: Houston veteran left tackle Duane Brown returned to practice this week but won't play Sunday as he continues to recover from quadriceps surgery in January. He'll be replaced by Chris Clark, in his second year with the Texans and who started 14 games for the Broncos in 2013. While Brown remains out, the Texans will get a boost with the return of right tackle Derek Newton, who had been out since injuring his hamstring on the first day of training camp.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman contributed to this report.
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