No longer do we have to watch backups compete against each other in a game littered with terrible offensive line play and rookie mistakes. It's finally time to watch your 2016 Houston Texans for real. The Chicago Bears are in town, so what's worth the watch?
1. The Return of The Beast(s)?
J.J. Watt and Duane Brown both got activated off the PUP list in the last week, which is a great sign. How will they perform in the game? Although he will play on Sunday, I don't think we'll see J.J. take his normal level of snaps. As much as he won't like being on a pitch count, I can guarantee he probably will be on one. In times gone by, that would have been a concern, but with Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney looking good thus far, I'm trying to remain positive.
Duane Brown has been much slower in his recovery from a torn quad, but it was always said he would be returning around this time. While his availability for Sunday’s game seems doubtful, there is some optimism about him returning sooner rather than later.
Watching both of these guys in their return from injuries is a key. If they don't perform up to snuff just yet, I wouldn't be too concerned, but it getting them back to something close to their past levels of excellence is important.
2. Jeffrey/White v. Joseph/Jackson/Johnson
This is the first of many great matchups between receivers and secondary we will see this season, with Houston’s talented trio of cornerbacks up against a solid pair of wide receivers. Alshon Jeffrey is a talented receiver and whilst he may not have high end speed, he has the athleticism to be a problem on jump balls. Kevin White missed his whole rookie season with injury, so this will be his first taste of the NFL regular season. White runs a 4.35 40 and is a perfect physical specimen, but it was thought by some that he lacked route-running skills out of college.
How the Texans’ secondary, namely Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson and Kevin Johnson, fare against these two very athletic wide receivers will be a great battle to watch. Obviously, I'm hoping they keep them the Chicago wideouts out of the game, though that will be easier said than done. Who lines up against who will also be interesting. Will Kevin Johnson start getting more snaps? Will the Texans choose to stick to one receiver or to a side of the field?
3. Will Fuller
By all accounts, Will Fuller has had a great camp and preseason. There have been a couple of drops, but he has flashed the tremendous speed that had everyone excited out of college. DeAndre Hopkins aside, Fuller quickly became Brock Osweiler's favourite target, at least during the preseason games. Fuller has been made the starting WR2 on the latest unofficial depth chart as well, further testament to just how impressive he has been.
What I'm interested to see is how Fuller gets on in his first NFL game. I'm not expecting the world, but if he can flash that speed and force the Bears into having a safety over the top just for him, I would be happy. Even just one catch on a deep route would be amazing. It's just not something we've seen for a long time in Houston from anyone besides DeAndre Hopkins.
Bill O'Brien must be counting his blessings that he managed to land all of these lovely new pieces for his offense. We finally have our quarterback, we have a star running back in Lamar Miller, and our wide receiver group looks exceptional. All these new offensive threats open up the playbook and allows us to do so much more than before. We now have the speed to make a wide receiver screen work. Jet sweeps could be an option, thanks to both Will Fuller and Tyler Ervin and their incredible speed. Even a wide receiver passing play could be back on the cards with Braxton Miller being a former college quarterback and all. All I know is that we're going to see a lot of new plays out there this year. I can't wait.
What are you looking forward to in the Bears game? Or are you just happy that we have football back?