Two Texans making their first NFL start vs. Chiefs
The Texans (2-4) are in Kansas City this week to take on the Chiefs (6-0) at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. Here are five matchups to watch:
D.J. Swearinger vs. Jamaal Charles
Swearinger is making his first-career start on Sunday and, as the strong safety, will have to try to stop one of the best running backs in the NFL.
Charles is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards since the beginning of last season with 1,984, behind Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris and just ahead of Arian Foster.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Swearinger said. “Jamaal Charles is one of the fastest backs out there. Alex Smith is a great quarterback. They’ve got some great receivers. It’s going to take a team effort, the pressure, linebackers, us locking down in the secondary. It’s going to take a full-team effort and we’ll be ready for it.”
Justin Houston vs. Derek Newton
Last week, as expected, Ryan Harris subbed in for Newton several times at right tackle but Newton will remain the starter. And he has a really tough task on Sunday.
“Well, he’s a young player. He can definitely play better. I think I’ve said that over and over again, and more consistent,” head coach Gary Kubiak said of Newton. “I think he has gotten better. What you’re looking for is Newton playing that way all of the time.
"But he is a second-year player. What was he, a sixth-seventh round draft choice? I don’t know what Newton was. Out of a small school, so he’s still an ascending growing player. We’ve got to hang in there with him and continue to do everything we can to make him better. He’s got the ability. We’re just looking for the consistency. We’ve got to trust him and he’s go to keep working and doing his job.”
Houston is tied for the league lead in sacks with 9.5 through six games. He is half a sack away from his career high, which he set last season. Kansas City leads the NFL in sacks with 30. The next closest team is Seattle with 23.
Eric Berry vs. Garrett Graham
The Texans clearly missed Owen Daniels last week in a loss to the Rams and Kubiak said as much.
But Graham will get his second week as a starter – he has been playing much less in the special teams game since he’s been a starter – and rookie Ryan Griffin continues to impress.
Berry is one of the best players on the highly-touted Kansas City defense. The strong safety has been to two Pro Bowls in his first three seasons in the league.
Crowd vs. Case Keenum
Keenum is making his first NFL start on Sunday. Heck, it’s the first time he’s been active for an NFL game. And he’ll have to deal with a loud and rowdy crowd at Arrowhead Stadium.
The fans at Arrowhead Stadium last Sunday set a noise record and forced the Raiders into several penalties.
“I think we’ve practiced all week with the noise,” Keenum said. “Doing that and working with silent cadence I think is going to be big. We’ve really worked a lot on the operation. I think operation, being able to get us in the right play, calling plays in the huddle, getting us out of the huddle with the right personnel, snap count, and all of that stuff reduces penalties and kind of creates fluidity in the offense. So I think that’s going to be huge this week.”
Arian Foster vs. Derrick Johnson
Johnson is the Chiefs best inside linebacker and he’ll have to deal with Foster, who has really started to run well over the last couple of weeks.
With Keenum making his first-career NFL start on Sunday, the run game becomes increasingly important.
“I think it’ll be beneficial if we have two elements of our offense going,” Foster said. “That element of our offense going. Just being there for him. Handling our business in the run game because, when you run the ball well, it obviously opens up things in the passing game. I think it’s important.”