Houston Texans: Five reasons to watch versus the 49ers

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Aug 31, 2013; Troy, AL, USA; Troy Trojans wide receiver Chandler Worthy (16) carries the ball as UAB Blazers cornerback Jimmy Jean (7) pursues him at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Number Four – Who wins the return job?

The Houston Texans were bad in the return game last season as they were thoroughly outplayed by their opponents. Primary kick returner Danieal Manning was not retained, and subsequently retired from the NFL.

Punt returnes Damaris Johnson and Keshawn Martin underwhelmed in that job last year, Martin did the same on his kickoff returns in 2014.

Polk was a good return man for Philly as he averaged 30 yards per return on kickoffs and took one back 102 yards for a score. His ability could provide a boost on special teams if he is able to beat out other competitors such as undrafted receiver Chandler Worthy who is stealing attention with his speed.

While at Troy, Worthy racked up 1,900 yards on kick returns and had two touchdowns. The 5’9″ receiver weighs in at only 173 pounds, so he won’t wow anyone with his size, What he can do is elude tacklers and should insert himself into the conversation for the job returning kicks for the Texans in 2015.

For Johnson and Martin, both have to show improvement from an average 2014, especially given the newfound depth at the receiver position for the Texans.

Aug 7, 2015; Richmond, VA, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) participates in drills during joint practice with the Washington Redskins as part of day eight of training camp at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Number Five – Who helps Watt this year?

The Texans had 38 total sacks in 2014 and guess who had 20.5 of them all by himself. Defensive end J.J. Watt was a man possessed and single-handedly kept the Texans from being the worst pass rushing defense in the league.

First overall pick out of South Carolina Jadeveon Clowney was supposed to help Watt, but that never happened as injuries took Clowney away for all but four games last season. Some hope Clowney can return from his microfracture knee surgery, but he still isn’t scheduled to practice until next week.

Upon his return, he most likely won’t be as explosive as he hopes which means once again the Texans will need someone else to help bring pressure. The biggest (pun intended) hope is that by adding veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork to the line that blockers will be preoccupied with him.

If Wilfork can plug the middle as he did for 12 years in New England, it would free more things up for Watt and company. Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus is the main hope in getting to the quarterback, but his six sacks per season average is not great.

The hope for tonight is to see if someone like undrafted free agent Lynden Trail or former Baltimore Raven John Simon could step in and provide a spark. Trail is massive at 6’7″ and 269 pounds and has been called an athletic freak.

Simon was a fourth round pick of the Ravens in 2013 but was off the roster by 2014 and recorded 1.5 sacks in 11 games for Houston last year. Simon is considered a technician and could be a steal for Houston if he is able to produce.

I am sure there will be even more players and position battles to keep an eye on as the preseason progresses, and there are probably even more reasons to tune in tonight. Comment below to let us know what you will be looking for during the contest tonight.

Next: Hope for the tight end position