Saturday night, the Houston Texans take the field for pre-season game number two in the Superdome - home of the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
As is the case for pre-season, the starters should see their game time upped up from two series to about a quarter or so. Against one of the best teams in the NFC, this game - minus the fact that the schemes are all super-vanilla and there's no direct game-planning - should be a good measuring stick for your Houston Texans.
Time to jump and see some key items that I'll be watching for -and that you may want to keep an eye on yourself - during the game.
1. Kareem's play is no longer just a dream.
Rookie CB Kareem Jackson will make his long-awaited debut in a Texans uniform. Given Frank Bush's tendencies to have a cornerback play a side of the field rather than shadow a receiver, Mr. Jackson will get a chance to be tested by WRs Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, and Robert Meachem, who will catch passes from Super Bowl XLIV MVP QB Drew Brees. Welcome to the NFL, Rookie. Kareem may be a rookie, but he's scheme-ready and spent a lot of time going one-on-one with WR Andre Johnson. All that said, we still have no idea of what to expect when he steps on the field, so all eyes should be on 25's zone.
2. Will it continue to be a sackfest?
Last week, the Texans' starting front four got after the Arizona offensive line. There were two sacks and a lot of pressure. While improving the pass rush has been a focus of this off-season, the Saints' offensive line will be a much more difficult test. Last season, the Saints allowed 20 sacks, which ranked as the fourth-fewest total in the NFL. As the lovely bfd pointed out in the first open practice thread, the Saints have two of the best guards in the league, so my spotlight is on DT Amobi Okoye as he attempts to become the disruptive DT he was drafted to be. Amobi played pretty well last week as he collapsed the pocket some and was strong at the point of attack (in layman's terms, he didn't get blown off the ball 5 yards like NT Frank Okam). I am hoping he continues to show that kind of performance against superior competition.
3. Speaking of the big uglies...
The focus on offense should still be the offensive line. With the position battles still unsettled, the watch is on to see which group can provide a push in the running game and keep QB Matt Schaub clean. While it appears almost safe to say that C Chris Myers and RG Antoine Caldwell have locked their positions down, G/C Wade Smith and G Mike Brisiel will continue to try to take their jobs and LG Kasey Studdard's job.
4. Preach on, Reverend!
We're all falling for the Reverend LB Darryl Sharpton after last Saturday. With a vacant linebacker spot open for four games, one could do a lot worse than posting seven tackles, a pass deflection, and an interception with the second team in an attempt to grab that playing time while the other competitors are nursing their owies. The guy made so many plays that coach Gary Kubiak may have seen the light and is considering moving starting WLB Zac Diles to the strongside to open a spot for Sharpton while Brian Cushing serves his four-game suspension. If the good Reverend can
5. Kick Me.
Once again, everyone will watch when kickers Kris Brown and Neil Rackers hit the field. You should all know the drill by this point. With each situation, the kickers will rotate in and out. They are dead even, but Brown received more opportunities last week. Does this mean Rackers goes first on Saturday or does Kubes try to make Brown look good?
As a reminder, you'll find the games on ABC-13 if you're in the local area. Radio coverage, online or on an actual radio, is provided by 100.3 KILT, SportsRadio 610, and La Tremenda 1010, as well as Internet coverage here and elsewhere. Sound off below on what you are hoping to see Saturday night...aside from a healthy team.