A couple of key players are back while a few are out with injury

4 observations from Texans practice Aug. 19


@EdClarke03/Eddie Clarke

If you missed the observations from the Texans preseason game two you can find them right here

Nick Martin, Reader return

The Texans welcomed back starting center Nick Martin and defensive lineman D.J. Reader to practice. Reader was a terror, as he has been this preseason. It was just shells, no pads today, but Reader flashed right through the offensive line to disrupt the play.

Martin's return moved Zach Fulton back to guard. It will be interesting to see if Martin gets game action against the Cowboys. He could probably use the reps to catch up.

Tytus Howard and Matt Kalil are down, for now

There was no work Monday from Tytus Howard and Matt Kalil.

Howard has a broken finger and will likely miss the rest of the preseason if I was guessing. Bill O'Brien said he wouldn't expect Howard to practice this week but he did expect him to be ready for the game week one against the Saints.

Kalil has worked sparingly recently. He practiced last Sunday and was off Monday. The team was off Tuesday and then Wednesday he worked against the Lions and said he was healthy. He hasn't practiced since and didn't play in the game against Detroit. O'Brien said he thinks the veteran could practice this week.

Roderick Johnson has been getting more snaps in place of Kalil and has held up nicely in his opportunities. Deshaun Watson said after the preseason game he is comfortable with Johnson at left tackle. Zach Fulton is the guy in place of Howard at guard. He has the ability to play all three inside slots and at this point he has played all three inside spots or at least practiced there.

The best Texans tight end: Jordan Akins

Jordan Akins started camp under the radar. Jordan Thomas had flashed the first few days. Kahale Warring was an exciting draft pick. Darren Fells was the blocking expert. Since then Thomas got hurt, Warring has barely been on the field, and Fells is still better at blocking than catching the ball.

Akins has gotten better and better each week. His hands have had a hiccup here or there but Monday he made an amazing over the shoulder catch in 7-on-7 drills. He also can get behind the defense with ease as he beat his man and nearly hauled in a long Deshaun Watson pass for a score before a defensive back came over and broke up the play.

Thomas has been disappointing since his return to the field. Monday he had a drop on an easy play. Bill O'Brien mentioned after the second preseason game Thomas needed to get better at his route running. He started off hot but the injury and subsequent struggle to get back on track has derailed him. Warring isn't even practicing right now.

The roster competitions for offense skill position players

These are currently the competitions as I see them for the skill position players.

Potentially two wideout spots if they're keeping six wide receivers. One spot if they're keeping five.

Tyron Johnson - Vyncint Smith - Steven Mitchell

Tyron Johnson will be on someone else's 53-man roster if he gets cut is my assumption. So would Smith. Mitchell is a long way from supplanting either slot wideout but if Keke Coutee's injury lingers he could make the team.

Potentially two running back spots if they are keeping four. One spot if they are keeping three.

Karan Higdon - Taiwan Jones - Demarea Crockett - Buddy Howell

I don't have a good read on this position. They love special teams usefulness and all these guys provide that to some extent in various ways. It will be interesting to see if Howell's impressive finish to the Lions game can get him in the mix more.

One tight end spot with the assumption Kahale Warring heads to the injured reserve.

Darren Fells - Jerell Adams

Adams is good enough to be on someone's 53-man roster just can't see him cracking the Texans roster unless they keep four and IR Warring. With Warring, he's so far behind and has played so little football in his life a "redshirt" year might do him well.

Bonus: Joseph's brain

Johnathan Joseph is always talking on the sidelines. It feels like everyone sits under his learning tree. From Bradley Roby to linebacker Dylan Cole is always encouraging or talking about a rep with the defenders.

Even when Joseph wins a rep against an offensive player he shows great sportsmanship in victory.

The Texans barely beat the Nick Foles-less Jaguars on Sunday which has some fans concerned with Bill O'Brien's ability to get the most out of his team.

Is Bill O'Brien the worst coach when it comes to getting the most out of his team's talent, or do other coaches across the NFL struggle with this even more than O'Brien?

ESPN 97.5's Joel Blank, Barry Laminack, and Raheel Ramzanali weigh in on O'Brien's struggles and discuss which coaches are the worst at maximizing talent in the NFL.

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