Houston Texans Week 2 Preseason Preview: Spotlight Shines On Saturday For Tate, Others

Another week, another preseason game, another chance to make the Texans 53-man roster.

Earlier this week, I took a crack at putting together a 53-man roster for the Houston Texans on Battle Red Blog. After one week of preseason, the position battles I talked about last week are sorting themselves out. As opposed to writing about the battles this week, I want to talk about the five (or so) players who are playing more than just a meaningless preseason game on Saturday night when the New Orleans Saints come to town. Any list like this must begin and end with…

Ben Tate, the second-year running back out of Auburn University.

Tate, who returned to practice earlier this week, has declared he will play this Saturday night. It's great to hear that because Tate needs to get on the field and he knows that. After seeing Chris Ogbonnaya take the majority of the team’s snaps, in practice and during the Monday night game, Tate’s position is not as secure as it once was. While he had a 2.2 yard per carry average on Monday, Ogbonnaya showed himself to be a viable third down back with good blocking and very good receiving hands (67 receiving yards and a touchdown). Tate needs to hit the field and show the talent that made him a second round pick, and once-pegged starting running back, or he'll find himself fourth on the depth chart or an injured reserve stash. Hopefully, young Benjamin will get better blocking from guys like….

…second-team guards Darius Morris, undrafted rookie out of Temple, and Shelley Smith, second-year man from Colorado State. With injuries likely to keep Antoine Caldwell and Kasey Studdard out of action, Morris and Smith will get plenty of opportunity to push one of them, preferably the woeful Studdard, out of Houston as they take on a talented and deep New Orleans defensive line. If you're like me, this weekend has potential to be the weekend that gets Studdard off the roster. A good performance here for either young guard will go a long way…

…almost as much as Lester Jean’s good performance did for him. Climbing out of the muck that is the receiver position battle, Jean has a strong hold on the fifth receiver spot thanks to 53 yards against New York and three weeks of good practices. The lanky receiver from Florida Atlantic will likely see snaps with the 2nd team and another good game may be the icing on the cake for Jean and…

…the undrafted rookie outside linebackers - Bryan Braman and Steven Friday. Wade needs OLBs with a nose for the quarterback and both undrafted rookie free agents had a sack-and-a-half on Monday. Coming off equally strong performances, Braman and Friday should grab some snaps in the second-team rotation. It’s one thing to beat up on fellow third-teamers, but these guys will need to impress against better competition to lock down a roster spot…

...which could be there for the taking because none of the return specialists showed anything last week. Trindon Holliday was hurt, Derrick Townsel was ineffective, and Quintin Demps is still running backwards on punt returns. Overall, the Texans averaged 3.6 yards per punt return and 15.4 yards per kick return. Contrast that with New York’s 13.8 YPPR and 28.5 YPKR, and you’ll see why many fans are disgruntled with the lack of return prowess. Houston will likely trot out the duo of Jacoby Jones and Danieal Manning to return if no one can separate themselves from the pack. It’s a fan’s nightmare as no one wants to risk injury to guys critical to each starting unit.

That’s this week’s preseason spotlight. Be sure to check out Battle Red Blog for more news, analysis, and information on the Houston Texans.

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