Bijani: What to watch for in Texans' preseason opener vs. Saints


(SportsRadio 610) - Finally, football is back.

The Texans' kickoff their preseason Saturday night against the New Orleans Saints at NRG Stadium.

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To get ready for the game, here are a few things to watch for:

Get ready for a lot of Jeff Driskel

Kyle Allen missed Thursday night’s practice after testing positive for COVID-19 and will miss Saturday’s preseason opener.

Meanwhile, head coach Lovie Smith said he’s expecting starter Davis Mills to play just a couple of series.

Jeff Driskel split reps with Mills during Thursday night’s jog through practice and seemingly ran the same stuff Mills did. They both looked to be on the same page with the rest of the offense.

Rookie debut will have to wait

The Texans have brought their first-round draft pick rookie Derek Stingley Jr. along slowly, he’s seemingly been a full go at practice the last few days.

However, the Texans have said they aren’t going to rush players through injury, and while it’s been roughly 10 1/2 months since his surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury in his left foot, the average recovery time for Stingley’s surgery on a football player is routinely 11 1/2 months. He’s the future, no need to rush things at this time.

Unusual suspects

While Smith opted to not divulge which players would and would not see playing time Saturday, aside from the status of Allen and Stingley, Smith did say, "Some of the players won't play. The majority will. We have a play count that we would like to get for, as you watch the guys play. There's guys that we feel like we need to see finish plays. I'm excited about that."

Expect to see moving parts on the offensive line and possibly a good sample size of Charlie Heck at left tackle, Justin McCray at left guard, Scott Quessenberry at center, A.J. Cann at right guard and Tytus Howard at right tackle to start. Laremy Tunsil will likely be a bystander Saturday night and Kenyon Green, who's been out with a knee injury, is another you most likely won’t see.

Pep’s creativity

Many of the players and coaches in training camp have talked about the creativity of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.

Don’t expect to be overwhelmed with Mills and Driskel showcasing much of it Saturday night. It’s standard practice to not divulge most of what you’ve got planned during the preseason, however some of the concepts will be visible.

Expect to see quite a bit of two-tight end sets and the Texans working in multiple receivers as they’ve got to find out who their dudes are going to be alongside Brandin Cooks.

Nico Collins has strung together a week of really good practice while Chris Conley, Chris Moore, Phillip Dorsett seem like locks.

Watch for Connor Wedington, Chad Beebe and Jalen Camp as they are all jockeying for position.

In Sync

Expect an organized sideline. Expect players to know who’s in and out during substations. The Texans have worked hard and put a heavy emphasis on being prepared and ready to go when called upon. It sounds simple and expected but that hasn’t exactly been a core strength of their's the last couple of years.

Everyone at Thursday's practice seemed to be on the same page systematically and there was little to no confusion on alignment or assignment on either side of the ball.

Secondary spot up for grabs

Creating takeaways has been a huge point of emphasis for the defense this camp. It’s discussed daily and that’s quite simply the case across the league. That’s what defenses take pride in the most.

While Steven Nelson, Derek Stingley and Desmond King appear to all be locks at cornerback at this point, watch out for Isaac Yiadom. He’s come along this camp and has caught the attention of teammates and coaches. Kendall Sheffield and Fabian Moreau may have something to say about that final spot in the corners room if he gets the opportunity to show out as well.

Hit 'em hard 

There isn’t hardly any real contact in practice these days. They might as well be wearing flags out there.

It's time to see who the real ballplayers are. Who can hit and who can take a hit?

Smith is eagerly awaiting to see just that.

"I mean, that's pretty simple. We haven't tackled full speed. We haven't put anybody down," Smith said. "We haven't cut blocks, we don't cut below the knee. Just finishing plays, playing against another opponent. Just that competition."

“Bee” versatile 

Beebe, a fourth-year pro, is looking to earn a spot on the Texans' roster after spending the previous three seasons in Minnesota.

He’s a long shot to crack a spot in the receiver room and after an impressive start to camp he’s slowed down a bit. He’s seen plenty of reps in practice as a punt returner and has looked clean, but live action will tell a better story Saturday night on whether he can add some value to the team as a special teams contributor.

King and Wedington have gotten their fair share of reps at punt return as well. We’ll see who begins to separate themselves beginning Saturday.

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