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Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots Preseason Week 1 Preview

A quick look at Houston’s backups and rookies before they enter their game vs. New England

NFL: Houston Texans Rookie Minicamp Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Now ending a long, transitionary offseason, a new Houston Texans roster emerges from the trenches of training camp. Led by first year head coach DeMeco Ryans, rookie starting quarterback C.J. Stroud, and rookie starting edge rusher Will Anderson, Jr., this is certainly a very different roster from the past few years. These three new members to the Texans have absorbed the attention of many fans, and it’s just as well, seeing their résumés entering the building. Here’s their depth chart entering tonight’s preseason game:

Stroud and Anderson taking the starting positions right out of training camp is a very encouraging sign, but will unfortunately mean our chance as fans to relieve some of this anticipation will only be short-lived. Ryans and his coaching staff, on the other hand, will have their talents laid bare for a full game against Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots. Here’s their depth chart entering the game:

Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik will likely give plenty of work to new Houston signee Andrew Beck, a fullback who will be also taking snaps at tight end, seeing as Teagan Quitoriano and Brevin Jordan remain injured. Beck, while not the flashiest signing by any stretch, will be one of the more intriguing players of the preseason, as he seeks to occupy the Kyle Juszczyk sized-hole in Bobby Slowik’s playbook.

On top of backfield intrigue with Andrew Beck, it’ll be doubly as interesting to see how this new-and-improved offensive line performs against some real competition. LT George Fant, LG Michael Deiter, C Jimmy Morrissey, RG, Keaton Sutherland, and RT Lillian Zeirer are likely to get plenty of reps, making it a nearly completely revamped second string of blockers since August 2022, Morrissey being the only one not in their first year in Houston. With as many new faces as these, making this part of the team look impressive will be one of the top priorities for the coaching staff this year. Rookie Patriot Keion White was one of the most sought after edge rushers in the 2023 Draft, so giving him a bad day would be a great sign for the chemistry of this new line.

NFL: JUL 26 Houston Texans Training Camp Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Behind this line for the majority of the game will be RBs Mike Boone, Gerrid Doaks, and UDFA Xazavian Valladay. Boone’s athleticism and special teams experience makes him a solid third string back, but take a quick look at Xazavian Valladay’s college stats and you can see why even our own writers have started to board the Valladay hype train. This preseason is his chance to make a mark, and I expect him to absorb a lot of attention before the roster is finalized.

Houston Texans Rookie Minicamp Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

QBs Davis Mills and Case Keenum will compete for the backup job, and with this potentially being Mills’ last chance to prove to Houston (and other teams) that his ceiling is worth taking a chance on, lighting up the Patriots’ secondary will be a requirement. Mills, Caserio’s first draft selection as Houston’s general manager, never became the diamond in the rough many hoped he could be after the highlight-filled finish to his 2021 campaign. Much more promising than other 3rd round QBs, however, Mills’ career is in limbo, and his performance in the next 3 games could put him back in contention with Stroud, make him an attractive target for a QB hungry team, or effectively end his career.

NFL: Houston Texans Training Camp Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The arguably thinnest position on the roster is the WR group, with Tank Dell, John Metchie III, Xavier Hutchinson, Steven Sims, and Jared Wayne likely to see the most action tonight. Dell and Metchie, both short speedsters, will seek to prove their route-running acumen to pair with starting receivers Robert Woods and Nico Collins. Though, against Patriots’ backup CBs Marcus Jones, Isaiah Bolden, and Shaun Wade, it won’t be easy.

NFL: Houston Texans Training Camp Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
NFL: New England Patriots Minicamp Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

On defense, the trenches will again be a point of interest for those looking to see the impact of some of Houston’s smaller free agent signings of the 2023 offseason. DT Hassan Ridgeway and DE Jacob Martin will see playing time tonight, and will also likely see plenty of time on the field instead of off it during the regular season. This is Martin’s second stint with Houston, originally coming to town as part of the infamous DeAndre Hopkins trade of 2020, who also returned to the AFC South this season…albeit to the wrong team.

DEs Dylan Horton and Chase Winovich will be competing against each other for one of the final spots on the 53-man roster, making tonight’s game a proving ground for the TCU hopeful and Michigan journeyman. The Patriots have their own storyline surrounding the offensive tackle battles, with Riley Reiff and Conor McDermott getting plenty of attention during their training camp. Regardless if they are on the field or if its backups Andrew Stueber or Sidy Sow, tonight will be Horton and Winovich’s chance to spur up more drama in Foxborough.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Texas Christian at Michigan Joe Rondone/The Republic

The linebacking group might be the most interesting for this game in particular. New England always targets short yardage gains and are certainly going to be experimenting with blocking tonight, so second string LBs Cory Littleton, Henry To’oTo’o, and Christian Kirksey will be put to the test right away. Expectations are high for this group given DeMeco Ryans is a former pro-bowl linebacker, but with the veteran help of Littleton and Kirksey surrounding the hyped Alabama prospect To’oTo’o, anticipation for a huge improvement over last year’s bunch is justified.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Finally making our way to the defensive backfield, this is where I believe Houston’s strength really lies. We’re talking Derek Stingley, Jr., Steven Nelson, Desmond King II, Jimmie Ward, and Jalen Pitre coming together to make one of the most formidable secondaries in football. With backups Shaquille Griffin, Tavierre Thomas, and S M.J. Stewart likely to see plenty of snaps during the preseason, the difference in competency between both strings should be slimmer than last year. Throw in the seventh-round S Brandon Hill from Pitt, a university with seemingly endless quality backfield prospects, and there’s reason to believe Houston will rely on its passing defense again this year. New England WRs Kayshon Boutte and Demario Douglas have been making waves in training camp recently, so it’ll be interesting to see who gets paired up with them.

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK
NFL: New England Patriots Training Camp Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

A third year into the rebuild, this Houston Texans team finally feels like its gathering some steam. After years of thumbing through no-names and practice-squad players, this group finally feels dense with talent, and tonight will be the first night we get to see them in action. I predict a good showing from Davis Mills and Xazavian Valladay, leading us to our first victory of the preseason, and against the Bailey Zappe/Trace McSorley led Patriots, no less! Now, we wait for the impending 2023 season…

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