Thursday, August 28, 2008
7:00 p.m., Reliant Stadium
2007 records: Tampa Bay- 9-8, Houston- 8-8
If Texans fans are looking for a lot of action from the starters, look elsewhere, as Gary Kubiak will use this final contest to evaluate his young players that will round out the roster.
"Naturally, we are going to have to see a lot of them (young guys). We have some guys banged up that we've got to get back healthy before we get into Pittsburgh," Kubiak told reporters. "We've got some tough decisions to make. I think, naturally, we are going to see a lot of young players play. We'll make the decision as far as exactly how we are going to do that probably sometime Wednesday afternoon. Obviously you are going to see a bunch of faces you haven't seen much of."
Five most important things for the Texans:
1. Stay healthy. As with every preseason game, the final outcome isn't nearly as important as staying healthy. With the lack of depth in many areas of this team, it's vital that Houston leaves this game with as few injuries as possible.
"I think we've been very fortunate throughout camp as far as where we are at right now and before we get ready to go play Pittsburgh," Kubiak said. "I think we've been fortunate. I like the way we went about our business. I think I'd still do some things differently next year, even so. Our first month, we could very well have some very warm football games and we've been able to work in the heat. It was pretty warm the other night so I feel good about that."
2. Run the football. Nobody knows for sure if Ahman Green will be healthy this season, and the smart bet is that he won't. With Chris Brown on the chopping block, it is very important for Steve Slaton and Chris Taylor to keep up their fine play and show that the Texans are not a one-dimensional offense.
"First off, offensively the big bright spots were the play of (RB) Chris Taylor and (RB Steve) Slaton," Kubiak told reporters following last week's preseason loss to Dallas. "(They) got put in a situation against a dang good football team where they basically were the starters in the game even though Chris started the game. They both rose to the occasion. They played well in protection which is something we had been concerned about, and Dallas came after us a lot.
3. Show some kind of pass rush. Houston has no legitimate pass rusher with the exception of Mario Williams, and opponents will double-team and chip on him if nobody else can prove they can beat one-on-one blocking. Earl Cochran is playing at the highest level of his career, but someone else needs to step up.
"I think it's easy for me to say we have to get it fixed. There is always going to be issues. We are going to stand up here every week and nothing is ever going to perfect. Do we need to get better at rushing the passer? Yes. I like to think of it as pressuring the passer. We didn't give up any sacks last night either. So Dallas didn't have any, but they did make us get rid of that ball very quickly a lot with some of the things that they did. That's a thing that concerns me. I think that he (Cowboys QB Tony Romo) was able to hold the ball too long. Various times there were some routes that were completed that aren't fair to the secondary. Those routes belong to the defensive line and the people rushing the passer. We can't give them that kind of time. There are some good things going on. (DE) Mario (Williams) has been exceptional, as I told you. (DE) N.D. (Kalu) has done some good things. I think what we are searching for is compliments to those players. We are taking a look at a lot of guys. We aren't going to panic and start zero blitzing people to try to make the quarterback get rid of the ball because if we start to do that then I don't think we are going to be a very good defensive football team. We are trying to stay committed to what we are doing through the preseason; trying to find out the guys who can do it and help us. Naturally, if you have to, you have to find ways to bring more than they got. We just have to continue to push and continue to evaluate those players. It's a difference maker."
4. Better play from the secondary. With Dunta Robinson on the PUP list, the Texans will be depleted somewhat in the secondary. Jacques Reeves doesn't seem like the player that Houston thought they were getting, and Antwuan Molden is pushing him for the starting job opposite Fred Bennett.
"I think we didn't tackle very well," said coach Kubiak. "That was as a defense, I wouldn't just say just the safeties. I think we can tackle better. We had a few communications problems back there. (SS) C.C. (Brown) has become a much better player this year through the preseason. I don't think it was (FS) Will's (Demps) best outing this preseason, but he has been consistent. (FS) Nick (Ferguson) continues to be consistent. What we've got to do this week is take those two young kids in (SS) Glenn (Earl) and (SS) Nick (Ferguson) and they are going to have to play a great deal of this football game because normally you go into the season with four safeties, we are a big candidate right now to maybe go with five. Either way you look it, there's a difficult decision to make there. We'll try to let them sort it out on the field."
5. Jacoby needs to hold on to the ball. Texans wide receiver/punt returner Jacoby Jones has had a very inconsistent summer. Jones has dropped punts and passes, and despite his game-breaking speed, Jones can find himself on the outside looking in when Saturday's cuts are made. Houston needs Jones to step up.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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