The Texans kicked off their preseason with a 27-13 win against the Vikings on Friday night.
With plenty of veterans sitting out and with even more playing sparingly, the first game was all about contributions from young players. Matt Schaub played just one series and went 5-for-5.
No, the score in these games isn’t very important, it’s more about seeing the potential for the upcoming real season.
Here are some observations from the game:
- In one play, DeAndre Hopkins showed what he can mean to the Texans this season. A play after he had a rare drop, Hopkins went up for a ball at the goal line in a 1-on-1 situation with cornerback Bobby Felder. He won.
Hopkins came down with the ball on the 34-yard pass from T.J. Yates. The play wasn’t anything special – a simple go route. But Yates had faith in Hopkins’ coming down with the ball and he did for a touchdown. This play was a deeper shot but this is the kind of impact Hopkins can have in the red zone. Last year at Clemson, all of his seven touchdowns that came on plays that started in the red zone were caught in the end zone.
He’s shown it in practices. Throw the ball up and he’s going to come down with it. He finally got a chance to show it in the game.
- All three quarterbacks played well. Schaub went 5-for-5 for 34 yards. Yates went 13-for-21 for 151 yards and a touchdown. Case Keenum went 13-for-18 for 125 yards and a touchdown.
The battle for the second quarterback position is alive and well. Yates didn’t do anything to lose his job but Keenum showed why he’s pushing him. If there’s really a battle there, we might see Keenum play before Yates in the next preseason game.
- Earl Mitchell is primed to have a big season in his first year as a starter. He actually played more than Shaun Cody last season because Cody was injured but Mitchell was better period. On Friday night, he was very good in the first half. With less than four minutes gone, he had a big tackle in the backfield and a sack in consecutive plays. He had four tackles in the first half, including three tackles for loss and a sack.
- Dennis Johnson wasn’t as impressive as some thought he would be. Several times, he failed to follow blocks and missed opportunities for big gains. It seemed like he either didn’t trust the blocking scheme or didn’t see it. He had seven carries for 11 yards.
Where Johnson did impress, however, was in the blocking game. He’s only 5-7 but showed something in pass protection and even got out in front to help Yates on a scramble play.
- While Johnson came into the game as the frontrunner for that third-string running back job, Cierre Wood from Notre Dame outplayed him. While Johnson looked hesitant to follow blockers, Wood was happy to one-cut and find holes. He had 10 carries for 59 yards.
- Roc Carmichael, who has looked much better during camp, did not have a good game on Friday. He gave up two big plays and missed the tackles after letting the passes be completed. He put on extra weight but if he can’t tackle, what good is it?
- Cornerback A.J. Bouye made a strong push toward earning a roster spot. He was solid in coverage. Made some solid tackles and made a big special teams play to pin the Vikings deep on a punt. That special teams play – where he leaped to save the ball from the end zone – might have been more important than any of them. He’s still behind Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Brandon Harris, Carmichael and Brice McCain on the depth chart, so special teams is how he can make the team.
- Chris Jones was expected to battle for the backup job at nose guard but he made an impact at defensive end on Friday night. He has been lining up at defensive end in camp for depth purposes, according to defensive line coach Bill Kollar but it looks like more than that. On Friday, he lined up on the right and left side and caused trouble for the Vikings’ O-line.
Jones’ performing well outside is a good sign for him because Terrell McClain looked good as the backup nose tackle. He got a ton of pressure in pass rush situations and had three sacks.
- Much of the talk coming into Friday night’s game was about undrafted outside linebacker Willie Jefferson. He was alright; he had some good moments. He made a big play early, swatting a ball from Matt Cassell and got some pressure on Vikings quarterbacks. But Jefferson was bested a little bit by fellow undrafted free agent Justin Tuggle. Tuggle was more consistent and made several nice plays.
- Jeff Maehl and Lestar Jean had trouble with dropped passes. They aren’t guaranteed roster spots, so they need to start performing better.