After a seven-month hiatus, football finally makes its return to Houston, as the Bulls on Parade traveled to North Carolina to face the Panthers. Granted, it was just a meaningless preseason game. But the fact that it’s still Houston Texans football coupled with the opportunity to observe the training camp position battles unfold live made it can’t-miss action for Texans fans.
They certainly did not come away disappointed, as the Texans handily beat the Panthers 26-13. The result of the game, however, was not as significant as the individual performances. More on that after the jump.
Here are some thoughts from the game:
- With Andre Johnson and Brian Cushing out, the Texans’ first team took the field without their best players on both sides of the ball. But clearly on top of the “what-to-watch-for” list for this game was the return of Matt Schaub. Since suffering a season-ending Lisfranc injury in Tampa Bay, this was Schaub’s first live-game action. He started out strong and showed no ill effects of the injury, completing three of his five passes for 52 yards on the very first drive. The accuracy on his 21-yard pass to rookie Keshawn Martin was vintage-Schaub. Following a five-step drop, Schaub fired a strike through the gap between two Carolina defensive backs to Martin, who was running on a post route. Schaub ended his outing with an interception as he was put under pressure by Panthers’ CB Captain Munnerlyn and ultimately was hit as he threw. Lack of composure under pressure has always been a major weakness that separates Schaub from elite status; so an improvement in this area will be vital to Schaub’s game as well as Houston’s chances of a deep playoff run with Number 8 under center. But overall, it was a positive sign to see the Texans’ starting quarterback return to game action and not missing a beat.
- The brand new right side tandem of the O-line looked good as Antoine Caldwell and Rashad Butler fit right in with the system. They both managed to display a combination of quickness and toughness that is the core of the zone-blocking scheme. The duo was particularly impressive on an End Around play as they did a great job securing the right sideline edge for Keshawn Martin, leading to a 11-yard gain and a first-down for the rookie receiver.
- The story of the day was the wide receiver competition, as all the candidates are giving their all to get the chance to play alongside Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter. Looking good all camp, Keshawn Martin again impressed with his performance today, catching two passes for 24 yards and the aforementioned End-Around run. If this keeps up, the slot receiver job will be Martin’s to lose. Another WR candidate who performed well was Lestar Jean, who finished with two catches for 50 yards. Jeff Maehl, Juaquin Iglesias also chipped in with two receptions apiece. Based on training camp reports and this game, it’s safe to say that Martin is currently holding the lead in this WR competition, with Jean right behind him. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Maehl and Iglesias will probably be headed for the practice squad. And we still have not seen much of Bryant Johnson and third-round pick DeVier Posey in action yet.
- Seven sacks and two turnovers. Vintage Texans defense.
- WR Trindon Holliday solidified his case as the Texans’ return man with an incredible 90-yard kick return for a touchdown. On top of that, he made Kubiak smile at the end of the play, which is rarer than snow in Texas. Speed has always been the ex-LSU Tiger’s forte, but he has struggled to turn this asset into on-field result at the NFL level. Here’s hoping Holliday has finally figured it out and turned into a Special Teams weapon for the Texans.
- Other notes: Foster fumbled on his only carry of the game… First-round pick Whitney Mercilus recorded 1.5 sacks and looked every bit the sack machine he was in college… Rookie K Randy Bullock connected on a 52-yarder late in the fourth quarter… Back-up TE Garrett Graham returned from injury and caught three passes for 44 yards…
No injuries reported (yet). Bright spots at multiple positions. Perfect start to an important 2012 campaign for the Houston Texans.