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Texans v. 49ers: Five Things To Keep An Eye On

Ahead of Houston's first preseason game of 2015, here's five items I'll be watching with special interest.

All eyes on Cush as he tries to get back to where he once belonged...
All eyes on Cush as he tries to get back to where he once belonged...
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Like you, in the eyes of casual football fans, I am a crazy person.  Yes, I actually enjoy preseason football.  Depth is critical in the NFL, and I like to see some of the Houston Texans' 2015 depth get some extended snaps.  In addition to that, every team has question marks in the starting lineup.  Although you can't tell a whole lot from starter performance in preseason, you at least like to see if they seem "comfortable" or near game speed.  With that, here are five items I'll be keeping an eye on in preseason game number one against the San Francisco 49ers.

1.  Brian Cushing - Hopefully Cush will get a few snaps tonight.  If he does, I'll be watching his burst, his sideline-to-sideline speed, and whether or not he appears to be more comfortable in Romeo Crennel's defense.  He very well may not get enough playing time to see all of these elements, but we can hope.  While everyone is talking about the potentially lethal combo of J.J. Watt and Vince Wilfork up front, Cushing has been virtually (and rightfully) all but forgotten.  If he can get back to within shouting distance of what he was before two devastating (and total fluke) injuries, the big guys up front could free him up to do a lot of damage in 2015.

2. The WR group - Reactions from camp have been mixed for all Houston WRs who didn't embarrass DeAngelo Hall on "Hard Knocks."  The No. 2 WR position seems to be wide open, with Cecil Shorts III currently occupying the spot on Houston's unofficial current depth chart.  Nate Washington figures to be in the mix for that No. 2 WR spot, but I'll be interested to see rookie Jaelen Strong's contributions as well.  If nothing else, I'm hoping this will be the beginning of the end for Keshart Martin, who is at the end of the aforementioned unofficial depth chart.

3. The TE group - Can the tight ends, as a group, improve in 2015?  How could they not, considering their collective disaster of a 2014 season?  There seems to be a lot of talk about how C.J. Fiedorowicz is going to make a big jump this season.  What this is based on, I have no clue.  The combination of CJF, Garrett Graham, and Ryan Griffin is enough to strike fear into the heart of a moist paper bag, for sure.  My hope is that whichever quarterback Bill O'Brien eventually settles on (Brian Hoyer), that quarterback will develop some chemistry with... SOME TIGHT END!

4. Kick and punt returners - Keshart Martin is going to get cut - it's a lock.  In fact, I think he's a good bet to get cut in the first roster reduction.  He was never a good return man, and as Netflix's "Sense 8" is to television, Keshart Martin is to wide receivers.  Keep in mind that Keshart is DFL on the depth chart at both KR and PR.  I'm glad Bill O'Brien has as much respect for his game as I do.  So yes, let's see what Alan Bonner, Chandler Worthy, and possibly Cecil Shorts III can do.

5. Ben Jones - When Ben Jones was drafted, it was as a center.  But with Chris Myers entrenched in that position for several years, he was never able to break in at his preferred college position.  All we saw were some terrible to average turns at guard.  Now with Myers joining a local sports radio station, Jones is the clear-cut starter at center.  The one thing you hear everyone rave about with Jones is his intelligence.  I find this amusing, considering he sounds like a guy who wouldn't hesitate to bend you over a dead tree trunk in the forest, and he's confirmed to have eaten cockroaches... but that's football, I guess.  Even guys who sound like they never laid eyes on a pair of shoes until adulthood can have that "football intelligence."  I'm not buying in on Jones as quickly as most seem to be, but there's something to be said for being in that comfort zone.  Let's hope it goes well because there's not a whole lot going on depth-wise on the O-Line this season.

Who/what will you be paying special attention to this evening?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below and enjoy the game!