So, no, the starters are not going to get much playing time when your Houston Texans take on the New Orleans Saints tomorrow afternoon. But that doesn't mean that there are not important issues and decisions that are likely to be decided, at least in part, by what transpires during this (mostly meaningless) preseason game.
With that in mind, here are five things for which to look:
1. Derek Newton as a left tackle. Duane Brown injured a paw during the week and will definitely not play tomorrow. The hope is that he will be ready for Week 1 when the Chefs roll into town. (Great googly moogly!) In Brown's stead, Derek Newton, one of the two best players from Arkansas State currently in the NFL, will slide from right tackle to left tackle. How Newton fares against a pass rush that was, at least last year, anemic at best, will be interesting. While a strong showing from Newton in limited snaps might not mean much, a terrible showing would be troubling if Brown's injury winds up taking a little longer to heal than is currently expected.
2. Wide receiver play. Likely four of the Texans' WR slots are set in stone: DeAndre Hopkins, Nate Washington, Cecil Shorts III, and Jaelen Strong. I suspect the Texans will keep six WRs, which leaves Demaris Johnson, Uzoma Nwachukwu (30 letters; no E); Travis Labhart, Keith Mumphery, Chandler Worthy, Keshawn Martin, and your cousin Darrell fighting for two spots. Personally, I hope it's Nwachukwu and Mumphery, but I'll settle for any two humans who aren't Martin and Johnson. Tomorrow's game could go a long way toward one or more of these guys making a case for himself. (Except for Martin.)
3. Linebackers. Right now, there is a log-jam for LBs 5-6. The pass happy Saints offense should give some of the better cover LBs a chance to show their skills. If what we've seen on "Hard Knocks" is any indication, Sunday could be Lynden Trail's last chance to convince Mike Vrabel to keep him around.
4. Charles James. I've grown really, really fond of this cat through "Hard Knocks," and he's played well enough, both in coverage and on special teams, to warrant a spot. Another good showing could punch his ticket and support his argument that everything a bubble guy does in camp matters, and only a fool would take the opportunity for granted.
5. Chris Polk. "Bang bang, chicken and shrimp." He wants to be RB1 while Arian Foster is out, but, currently, Alfred Blue is ahead of him. Can Polk put together enough of a showing to win the job outright? Doubtful. But a strong showing -- especially if Blue struggles -- could make this more or less a "by committee" scenario. O'Brien has already shown that he likes Polk; now it's time for Chris to prove that those tackling drills with Mama paid off.
Obviously, there are other questions to be answered and other plotlines in play here. What else will you be looking for when the Saints and Texans tangle tomorrow afternoon?
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