HOUSTON – The Texans host the Lions on Saturday night in their second preseason game. The main objective, for both teams, remains the same as it is for every preseason contest -- come out of the game healthy.
For the Texans, there are a handful of other things worthy of close attention.
The offensive line must be less offensive
Houston will run out a different center than they did in week one since Greg Mancz has not returned to practice after leaving last Thursday’s preseason game at Green Bay with a leg injury. Zach Fulton will get the start and since Nick Martin, the projected starter, has yet to practice at all during training camp, Fulton could be playing his way into the starting job at center.
Both rookies, Tytus Howard and Max Scharping, had a strong couple of days at joint practices with the Lions on Wednesday and Thursday and continue to look more and more likely to be starters for the opener Monday night in New Orleans.
The left tackle position is certainly not settled. Veteran Matt Kalil has taken plenty of reps with the starters, but he’s also had several days off from practice. In his one practice matching up with the Lions, he did not have a strong day. Howard could get more snaps at that spot just as he did last week during the second quarter.
Rod Johnson is also being given an opportunity to impress the coaches at the left tackle spot. He’s a much-improved young player, but still may be on the outside looking in, when it comes down to the final 53-man roster.
Battle for the last WR spot
This is one of the few real position battles in training camp between Vyncint Smith and Tyron Johnson. Smith is in his second season as an undrafted free agent, while Johnson, who followed the same post-draft path to Houston, is a rookie from Oklahoma State.
Deandre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Keke Coutee and Deandre Carter sit in front of them on the depth chart, but the team is almost assuredly going to carry at least five receivers, potentially six.
Johnson has shown more consistency catching the ball in practice and has gotten plenty of opportunities to work with Deshaun Watson with rest days given to Will Fuller. Smith gained some valuable experience last season, getting additional work over the final game and a half following the injury to Demaryius Thomas.
Both could see time in the return game, too. Each possesses excellent speed and they both should get a lot of snaps in this game.
Keep an eye on the Jordans
The second-year tight end twosome that shares the same first name should be on the field together for the first time against the Lions.
Jordan Thomas missed the preseason opener with a hamstring injury but returned to practice this past week. He brings the bigger body and is the better blocker, but Jordan Akins has done plenty to impress during the three weeks of training camp. He’s very athletic and is capable of making the great catches, even in traffic and that has shown up throughout the workouts.
With the extended absence of rookie Kahale Warring, these two could play huge roles on the offense all season and that could be a huge benefit to Deshaun Watson looking for more outlets to get rid of the football and avoid taking a beating.