The third preseason and most important game for the Houston Texans is slated for Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. The Texans will concentrate on getting starters ready and defensive rotations in place for week one of the season. This game is all about the starters and there will be some youngsters sprinkled in to see if they can handle the learning curve against better NFL competition.
This is a good time for onlookers to see what the team will look like and to pay attention to when players come into the game. Expect the starters to play for about a half, but that is all contingent on how they perform in their time on the field.
Here is our players to watch for Sunday.
Texans to Watch
We know it is not a particular player, but the offensive line is something to pay attention to. With very little work for the line in the first two games of the preseason, it has shown some spotty play from the group. The loss of Wade Smith is evident and question marks, especially in the run game, are evident. There is not one particular player to point a finger at but the group needs to get on track. The run game needs some awakening and it would be a good start to see it on Sunday.
If there is a time for the rookie to show what he is made of, the time is now. He is the only real pass rush threat off the edge and, at the moment, he has been taking the workload that Whitney Mercilus would have. He will have to show he can be a difference maker off the edge and he will get his chance to do just that. He has harrassed quarterbacks with hurries and created enough heat for teams to notice. He will be going against one of the best in the NFL on Sunday and he can nail down his spot with a productive game.
Last season Manning struggled in coverage and last week he looked lost on a touchdown that the Dolphins completed on him and Johnathan Joseph. Manning needs to show he can lead the secondary and make plays like he did in 2011. The secondary has had very average safety play since last season and with experience next to him Manning will need to step up. There will be plenty of chances with the pass happy Saints' offense and seeing something from Manning would be a good step for the 2013 season.
The special teams ace has only been that the past two seasons and entering year three is a big year for Braman. The youth infusion at the outside linebacker position is a sign that the clock is ticking on Braman and clean up sacks might not be enough for him to make the team. He needs to be a presence on defense in the run game and not get pushed around at the point of attack. Special teams is good, but when a team is deficient at pass rush off the edge, the team is going to look for the best players to help. Youth reigns supreme in the NFL and Braman has shown little promise in the defensive department. He is no given to make the final 53 of this roster and Sunday is a big game for Braman to show he can help this team in more ways than one.
It is hard to tell if McCain is healthy or not from his foot injury, but he has really struggled in coverage in the two preseason games. He has to be better in the nickle position for the Texans and be the lockdown player he was in 2011, and regain his confidence. When on his game, he compliments the secondary well and makes one of the best cornerback trios in the NFL with Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. With this being a passing league, McCain is just like the 12th starter on this team and having him playing at a high level is important for the defensive success.
It is his opportunity to lock down the starting spot next to Brian Cushing for kickoff weekend. Pass coverage is not his strength but playing physical is, and that is what the defense needs next to Cushing. Mays is a quick twitch player that can play downhill in a hurry and he is the enforcer that the defense needs. Another solid showing next to Cushing is key and the starting position will be his opening the season.
With Antonio Smith ready to serve his suspension, Jamison will be stepping into Smith's starting position. Coming back from an achillies injury, Jamison will be taking on a heavier workload. Probably one of the more underrated interior rushers for the Texans, he will fill in sufficiently until Smith returns. He looks like he is still trying to get his confidence up, but he has showed his ability to defend the run against the Dolphins and played the run well. Losing him last season hurt the Texans and having him back for the 2013 season will be a big plus, and he will get his chance to make an early impression.
The First Runningback to Spell Ben Tate
Will it be Deji Karim, Cierre Wood or Dennis Johnson? This will be a big thing for the shape of the roster and where the Texans are looking to fill the 3rd running back void. Karim has slowly been taking over the position battle, while chances have slipped by Johnson. Wood has been struggling to get the special teams situation under control, which has put him behind the other two. Whoever is out first will be a big indicator on who the Texans like for that position.