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Houston Texans Rookie Goals For Their First Preseason Game

What to expect from the Texans 2023 Draft Class

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

We’re back, baby! Well, almost. All there’s left is three measly preseason games and we’re back to nonstop NFL football. Houston has put together a strong draft class that looks to make an impact right away. There’s at least three straight away starters; C.J. Stroud, Will Anderson, and Juice Scruggs. Plus, they’ve added high-upside talent on both sides of the ball that can begin to turn this franchise around.

The fist righting of the ship begins tomorrow as the Houston Texans take on the New England Patriots on NFL Network. The first preseason game will feature plenty of new faces, each with the opportunity to impress the new coaching staff.

Here’s what we’re hoping to see out of the rookie class in their first preseason game.

CJ Stroud, QB: Strong knowledge of the playbook and no interceptions

It doesn’t matter if Stroud or incumbent QB Davis Mills starts the first preseason game. What’s important for Stroud is his command of the offense and ability to avoid costly mistakes.

If Stroud can get out of the game without throwing an interception, I will call that a success. He doesn’t need to be prolific, simply avoiding errors is the task in this first preseason contest. It’s been an issue thus far in camp.

Getting in and out of the huddle, clear communication at the line of scrimmage, and timeliness of progressions are all incredibly important parts of being the team’s QB that can be exemplified on Thursday.

Will Anderson, DE - High quality reps against New England’s starters, one TFL

While I doubt nine year-pro Trent Brown will start this first preseason game, Will Anderson must demonstrate he can hold his own against right tackle Riley Rieff. Rieff has been in the league for a dozen years. He’s seen it all. So Anderson’s ability to hold his own will demonstrate his ability to step into the professional game and demand respect. Statistically, Anderson doesn’t need to register a sack, but rather a solid tackle for loss would be an ideal way to start off this campaign.

Juice Scruggs, OC - start with the first team and no sacks allowed

Considering Scott Quessenberry, the incumbent starting center, tore his ACL and MCL this past week, rookie second round pick Juice Scruggs steps into the starting role by default. While Scruggs still has to earn the role, his imminent start on Thursday will be one of the more interesting storylines this preseason. He will face backup DT Christian Barmore, a 6’5”, 315 pound beast that will immediately present issues for Scruggs.

Interior of the offensive line has been a calamity for year. We’ll get to know straight away if Scruggs can hold his own against players much bigger than him. If he can start and not give up a sack, it will be a strong start.

Tank Dell, WR - three catches, one redzone touchdown

Unsurprisingly, the Texans were 28th in the league in red zone efficiency last year and struggled to convert all season. Houston’s top three red zone targets Brandin Cooks, Jordan Akins, and Chris Moore are all gone, leaving a significant target share up for grabs. Tank Dell recorded 29 touchdowns in his last two years at the University of Houston. While repeating his college stats would be an extraordinary feat, it’s quite unlikely to occur at the NFL level. He can bring his speed and fervor to bear against the Patriots tomorrow by demonstrating his knack for getting in the endzone.

Dylan Horton, DE - showcase pass rushing abilities

Horton was not brought in to stop the run on first down. He was drafted to sack the QB on third down. The Texans drafted Horton after picking Will Anderson not as a depth piece but rather an ace in the sleeve for DeMeco’s new defense. In this first game, Horton only needs to show that his primary skillset is capable of winning at a professional level. Outside of that, anything he shows in the run defense game is gravy.

Henry To’oto’o, LB - four defensive tackles and two special teams plays

Christian Harris’ old running mate at Alabama has bigger plans than a special teams star, but his best chance at seeing the field this season is as an impact player on special teams. To’oto’o is stuck behind a new cast of veteran linebackers brought in to anchor the defense. He currently is second string on the depth chart and has received rave reviews at camp. I suspect the rookie LB will receive a great deal of reps in the first preseason game.

Xavier Hutchinson, WR - two contested catches plus one for 30+ yards

Hutch’ has been the darling of training camp thus far. He’s stood out in a crowded wide receiver room and stands to be a key contributor this season. A strong performance tomorrow will go a long way in carving out a role for the rookie.

Jarrett Patterson, OC - ability to play multiple positions and run blocking strength

Scott Quessenberry’s injury entrenches Patterson on the roster and makes him rather indispensable. All three interior offensive line positions are available given Kenyon Green’s poor rookie season and Shaq Mason’s coming off his worst season in his career. Patterson was passed up until the 6th round due to his low-end power and play strength. Seeing Patterson play both guard and center against the Patriots will test his readiness to hold his own at the next level.

Brandon Hill, DB - three tackles, one pass breakup, and finding a role on defense

The Texans’ 7th round pick is one of the fastest players in the class and one to watch. He hasn’t made headlines with his play so far in training camp. He will excel on special teams, no doubt, but Hill has to find a role at safety or nickel to make a lasting impression on the coaching staff.