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Five Things To Watch For In Texans vs Broncos

There are loads of plot points and growing narratives strewn about tonight's showdown with the Broncos. Here are the five story lines that we are most interested in studying during the game.

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Preseason week two is upon us, which means that Houston will welcome one old friend and one old foe back to NRG Stadium today. Gary Kubiak and Peyton Manning have both combined to deliver countless losses to the Texans in one form or another over the years, and now they return as partners to test out their new ultimate weapon – old man rushing touchdowns.

In all seriousness, the Broncos should be an excellent litmus test for Bill O’Brien’s squad. Peyton Manning offenses are always highly productive, and Wade Phillips now has arguably better (healthy) talent in his front seven in Denver than he ever did during his time with the Texans. Denver should be a really fun team to watch this season. Let’s go through some things to keep an eye out for as you down your brisket and beers in front of the TV this evening.

5. How does the Texans' offensive line hold up?

The starting Broncos' front seven is downright vicious. Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and Malik Jackson are ridiculous enough on their own, but throwing in Brandon Marshall and a Bill Kollar-coached Sylvester Williams on top of that makes them a borderline top 3 unit. They will be getting after it early and often, which means the quarterbacks will probably be under siege from the very first whistle. Houston’s offensive line is no slouch though, with Duane Brown, Brandon Brooks, Derek Newton, and Ben Jones (at center) all ranging from solid to spectacular in their own right. This is the very definition of trial by fire.  Let’s see what they’ve got.

4. Is Christian Covington for real?

The 49ers double teamed Covington at every opportunity when it became clear that he was the best reserve defensive lineman that the Texans had to offer. When he was left one-on-one, Covington was able to use his unique quickness for his size to penetrate and disrupt plays at will. I want to see more of Covington before I declare him as J.J. Watt’s replacement or anything, but if he keeps showing up like this it will be hard to not start throwing out the "draft steal" label.

3. Can Kevin Johnson keep his momentum going?

The Texans' first round pick lead all defenders in snaps in his preseason debut and did not give up a single catch – not one. I saw Johnson work both inside and out as they tested him in different alignments, and he performed spectacularly well in all of them. If he gets any snaps against Demaryius Thomas tonight, that will be his biggest test yet.

2. Will Rahim Moore bounce back?

Rahim Moore had a shaky first game as a Texan when he let Torrey Smith get free on a long (and thankfully incomplete) bomb from Colin Kaepernick as well as getting juked out of his shoes on a 53 yard run from Jarryd Hayne. Moore is now facing his old team – the Broncos – for the first time. I want to see how he rebounds from a poor debut as well as how he handles his undoubtedly heavy emotions in this one. A satisfying interception would sure exercise a lot of demons here. Just sayin’…

1. Can Brian Hoyer match Ryan Mallett?

Hoyer found success with the first team offense last week with a quick touchdown strike to Cecil Shorts III, but we have yet to see him try to cobble together some points with the "leftovers" on the second and third teams like Ryan Mallett was able to do. I am curious to know if Hoyer can keep the offense humming when he’s throwing to Keith Mumphery rather than DeAndre Hopkins. If the twos and threes stay efficient under Hoyer’s watch, this quarterback race will likely be tighter than ever. If not, we might start to see Ryan Mallett pull away ever so slightly.

What are some things that you are looking out for tonight, BRB? Sound off in the comments below.

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