The Texans play the 49ers tomorrow and while I’ve already predicted an identical matchup for Super Bowl XLVI, this game holds little importance. That being said there are a few things to watch for in this matchup of gridiron goliaths.
Can the Electric Trindon Holliday Catch Lightning in a Bottle Again?
Trindon Holliday was arguably the most impressive Texans player in last Saturday’s 26-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers. With 182 yards on a total of six punt and kick returns being highlighted by his 90 yarder for a touchdown in the first quarter, Holliday looks great on paper. However, anyone who watched the 5’5″ LSU alum knows that the numbers are only half the story. After being stopped dead to rights at the ten yard line, Holliday broke away and gained another 20 yards. A majority of his returns mimicked that ability, making Holliday look like he could make a guy miss running down a narrow hallway. While the Texans are deep at receiver and more than likely won’t keep more than five on the roster, if Holliday continues the tear he was on in Carolina he just might stick as a return specialist.
Who Will Miss a Kick?
The Texans spent a draft pick on a kicker for the first time in franchise history in April’s draft leading many to believe that he had the spot locked up. However, the Texans brought in journeyman Shayne Graham to help push the rookie and told Graham that their would be a legitimate competition for the roster spot. Graham got the start last week against the Panthers hitting a chip shot on the Texans first drive, and another short field goal before being pulled for the rookie, Bullock. Bullock came in and made his own chip shot before being asked to kick a 52 yarder which he also made. Competitions often don’t come down to who can make more kicks, but rather, who will miss fewer. Perhaps Saturday’s game against San Fransisco could see the first miscue, or continued perfection for the two kickers.
Can Newton and Brooks Step Up to Take a Starting Job?
Derek Newton, last year’s seventh-round pick out of Arkansas State has been pushing current starter, Rashad Butler for the starting right tackle position since day one of training camp. Kubiak announced that the two would split time, and starts, at the position during the preseason along with current starter Antoine Caldwell and third-round pick Brandon Brooks at right guard. However, Kubiak stated that Brooks was “not ready” to start and thus is going to pair Caldwell with Newton this week and Brooks will split time. Much like the kicking competition, the Texans offensive line competition is one of the more intriguing story lines from camp and it will more than likely not be decided this weekend, however Caldwell could make a giant leap forward if he takes advantage of his second start.
Who Will Take the Third Wide Receiver Job?
Keyshawn Martin is the favorite to take the slot receiver job and it would make complete sense. Lestar Jean and DeVier Posey are better built to be on the outside and Martin is a very similar player to former Texans slot receiver Jacoby Jones. While some fans may not want to have a player even remotely comparable to Jacoby Jones, Martin is a guy who’s only serious problems coming out of school were route running ability and drops. Since the opening of camp, however, those are two of the things that the coaching staff has been praising the quiet receiver for. They claim that his routes look crisp and he has as few drops as anyone at camp. All that being said, the position is still up for grabs and whoever seperates themselves in the remainder of the preseason should come down with the job.
Will the Youth be as Exciting as it was Last Week?
This not only goes for the Texans, but for the 49ers as well. Last week saw the Texans defense step up for seven sacks and receive one and a half from first round pick, Whitney Mercilus. If Mercilus has another game like he did last week then it will be nearly impossible to prevent Texans fans from getting too overhyped. Mercilus, along with last years second-round pick, Brandon Harris, and undrafted rookies Case Keenum and Jonathan Grimes should round out some of the Texans young guys to look for in the matchup with San Fransisco. The 49ers on the other hand have some of their own guys to look for, most notably, Colin Kaepernick. The speedy former Nevada quarterback, took off for a long touchdown run last week and has been having a good camp. If the Texans can hold Kaepernick, and Alex Smith and his underrated speed, it will only enhance what we found out last week against the Panthers; the Texans can prevent a scrambling quarterback from beating them.