RAMS 21, Texans 20
Texans: Tough decisions got tougher in week 3 of the preseason
Another week of the preseason has come and gone with the Texans dropping a game to the Los Angeles Rams 21-20. More regular season starters saw action in this one, especially on defense. J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Tyrann Mathieu were all on the field to start the game for the first time this preseason. DeAndre Hopkins was also on the field with a 4-yard catch. But seeing the starters play early is not really what the preseason is about. Sure, it’s nice to see them get some game action but we know they don’t need it. There’s no reason to risk injury. There are some positions that don’t have a clear-cut depth chart and that’s why the third game of the preseason has significance.
The Texans have a glut of talent at wide receiver for Deshaun Watson to throw to. DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Bruce Ellington will be the starters; with Keke Coutee also probable to make the final roster. That leaves only one, maybe two spots available at the position. Sammie Coates and Braxton Miller are the two players in direct competition for that final spot. While Coates has turned in a decent preseason catching 5 passes for 70 yards, Miller has experience in the offense and has done better with 9 receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Coates did suffer an injury and that might be compared to how Miller hasn’t done much since being drafted in 2016. But depth is important at some positions and there may be room for both. There just might not be room for everyone at running back and that’s why the battle between Alfred Blue and Troymaine Pope ramped up a little against the Rams.
Blue rushed for 45 yards and a touchdown Saturday while Pope added none to his 49 on the preseason. Blue has totaled only 31 yards in the first two weeks, so his performance today was a step up to secure the No. 2 spot behind Lamar Miller. Pope has shown his versatility with 7 receptions for 64 yards, but that makes him more of a specialist than a true back-up. And that role makes him more expendable when D’Onta Foreman returns from injury later this season.
The good thing about those decisions at running back and wide receiver are that they aren’t for a starting position. But safety is another story. Kareem Jackson and Justin Reid are listed as 1A and 1B on the depth chart for good reason. Jackson is converting from cornerback and his eight years in the NFL give him a wealth of knowledge to draw from. Reid is a rookie third round draft pick who arrives in Houston with a lot of talent but no experience at this level.
Reid had a solid game in Week 2 against the 49ers with three solo tackles (six total) in just a short night of work. He has flashed a lot of talent and his ability may develop more, but Jackson showed in Week 3 against the Rams why experience matters. On a 2nd and 3 play for L.A., Jackson jumped the pass and made the interception. He returned it to the 3-yard line and set the Texans up for the first touchdown of the day.
The addition of Tyrann Mathieu in free agency has given the Texans a lot of wiggle room to work with at safety. The veteran Kareem Jackson gives a solid presence on the back end while Reid adjusts to the speed of the NFL. His ball skills will be great for the shaky cornerback group who will need help over the top. Reid may eventually become the starter and learn to make more plays but for now, he might lose playing time to the old guy who came out in preseason Week 3 and showed why he deserves the nod.
There is still one more game to play before they really count. That will be five days from now. And in eight days the roster will be cut down to 53 players. There are a lot more decisions to be made and a lot more nuances to consider. But these three situations warrant special attention. There is a lot riding on the Texans offense to be better this year and help compliment what should be a great Romeo Crennel defense. There is also a lot of pressure on the secondary to make sure teams can’t beat this stout defense by airing it out all day.
Still plenty of time to see what happens, but after three weeks, this is what stands out the most as the Texans roster begins to take shape and players step up their performances.