The Texans are gearing up to face the New Orleans Saints in the Super Dome on Saturday in their third preseason game in what's commonly referred to as the "dress rehearsal" game with starters getting the majority of the snaps. Despite having nearly a month to watch and observe the roster, there are still a few questions to answer for coach Gary Kubiak as they head into the regular season and their game against the Miami Dolphins in week one.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the team currently is the health of their star players after a number of them missed time last season and were injured during the early part of training camp. One of those players is J.J. Watt who dislocated his elbow during the first week of training camp but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.
One of the other players dinged up recently is Brian Cushing. The Texans inside linebacker missed their first preseason game after coming down with the flu earlier in the week and left their second game with sore ribs. The injury is said not to be serious and a little extra rest should fix the issue.
Outside of injury issues the other questions coming up around the team have to do with position battles. At right tackle veteran Rashad Butler and 2nd year player Derek Newton have both started one preseason game each and appear to be neck and neck in a battle for the starting gig. The two players both do certain things well, but have holes in their game that have kept them from claiming the job outright. Butler looks to be the more athletic of the two and a more polished pass protector with his long arms and experience at left tackle. Newton is bigger, stronger, and has looked better in the run game so far. The decision will not be easy for Kubiak.
One of the other position battles during training camp has been at kicker; though as I've said before, I don't believe it to be an actual open battle. Both kickers were perfect on their four combined kicks during their first preseason game. In the 2nd game, Shayne Graham made both kicks while Randy Bullock missed his only attempt from 51 yards.
At receiver, it seems that we know who the starters will be, but there is a battle among the young players to see who will be their 3rd and 4th receivers, along with possibly stealing some playing time from Kevin Walter or forcing Kubiak to play more three wideout sets. Keshawn Martin has been one of the brightest stars during camp while fellow rookie DeVier Posey has disappointed. Second year player Lestar Jean has also looked good and I think he should be considered as a possibility to start as their second receiver.
The young Texans receivers seem to be ahead of schedule in their development, and their emergence along with the departure of Joel Dreessen will make the jobs of Owen Daniels and James Casey at tight end that much more crucial. The Texans in the past have used a lot of two tight end sets, but I'd expect to see less of that this year. Health will also be a factor for both Casey and Daniels because the Texans are thin at tight end and both guys have had injury issues in the past.
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