The 2018 preseason kicked off Thursday night with the Texans claiming a meaningless win in Kansas City, 17-10. The numbers on the scoreboard may not matter, but the effort and playmaking from down the depth chart players is vital to the Texans’ season. There were some big plays from offensive rookies and consistent effort from the young defenders. All of that is a good sign going forward.
Here are my choices for players who had prime performances in the victory.
1. Jordan Akins—Tight End
One of the Texans top draft picks this year, there was high hope that Akins would be able to come in and shine as a receiver. He did exactly what was needed when he scored two touchdowns in the first half. They were his only two catches, but he did exactly what the Texans wanted when they selected him.
The first one was a shallow out route near the goal line. He created separation by running right at the linebacker in coverage, forcing him into the wash. Akins made a good catch on a ball thrown to the front corner where only he could catch it. His second touchdown came on a play the Texans hope to see a lot of this season, a tight end open in the middle of the field with good hands and the ability to make a move with the ball. It’s nice to see this kind of result early in the preseason. It means there is a high ceiling and the opportunity to really help the passing game.
2. Troymaine Pope—Running Back
The biggest offensive contributor of the night, this second-year pro put on a show when Lamar Miller’s night ended. He made huge contributions as a receiver, catching 3 passes for 47 yards, allowing screen passes to be effective at slowing the pass rush. He only averaged 3 yards per carry, but managed good yardage at opportune times. The need for a back to spell Lamar Miller is important and Pope made his case to be that guy.
His biggest play of the night came on a 34-yard screen pass that moved the ball from Houston’s 29-yard line to the Chief’s 37-yard line. It was a huge change of field position that eventually led to the second touchdown of the night.
3. Duke Ejiofor—Outside Linebacker
The sixth round pick made his presence felt all over the field early and often in this game. He’s credited three quarterback hits on the night, but he was applying a lot of pressure when he was in the game. His maximum effort will probably be of interest for special teams because his position already has a solid depth chart, but every team needs a guy with that kind of motor.
4. Julie’n Davenport—Left Tackle
Big position of need for Houston. Big debate about how the position will be filled. Big guy took the first game opportunity to say that the position is going to be his. I was looking closely at Davenport’s play in the first quarter, looking at his fundamentals against a generic pass rush. He passed the eye test.
He was quick into his setup on passing plays, moving his feet with the defender and most of the time keeping him out of his chest. On running plays, he was able to get into the second level and attack the linebackers, giving running backs more room to work with. This is still the preseason, so he will need to keep working hard for more complex pass protection, but game one was a great effort.
5. Dylan Cole—Inside Linebacker
The Texans are lucky, they have a great young pair of inside linebackers with Benardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham. But if Dylan Cole can continue to make plays like he did against the Chiefs he will add another name to that list. He finished the night with three tackles and two passes defensed. In a preseason game that’s a pretty good stat line. It’s even better that one of those passed he blocked resulted in an interception.
This was a full out effort by Cole to be all over the field. He may not have been credited with more tackles, but just like Ejiofor he made his presence felt. If he has developed significantly in year two he can be useful in creative defensive packages. That’s the kind of thing teams crave when looking at the depth chart.
There you have it. My list of prime performers in the first preseason game. There are three more to go and plenty of chances for more names to show up on the radar. It’s a great start to see this kind of performance from these young guys who are needed at positions that were liabilities last season.
Next week the Texans are home against the 49ers. Look for more guys to step up and get their name on the coaches sheet.