Texans vs. Panthers: What to look for tonight


The Rookies

I am going to be watching the drafted rookies more than anything tonight, and the Texans offensive line will definitely be something I focus on too. First of all, who isn’t excited to see what Deshaun Watson can do in an NFL game? The Texans have been dreadful at the QB position for years, and the thought of having a play-making QB is something all Texans fans have been waiting for since the creation of the franchise.

Another rookie to keep an eye on is RB D’Onta Foreman. Foreman brings some physicality to the running game, and he has legit 4.4 speed. Texans fans should have the opportunity to see what the Texans starting backfield will look like for years to come with Watson and Foreman. Lamar Miller had trouble staying healthy last season, and last year’s Doak Walker Award winner could definitely help take some snaps away from Miller and keep him fresh.

Don’t sleep on linebacker Zach Cunningham tonight either. There’s a reason the Texans selected him in the second round. Houston was ripped apart by pass catching RBs last season, and he should be a big factor on passing downs and special teams. He needs to work on his physicality in the running game, and he could use some improvement in pass coverage. He does have the one thing you can’t coach, and that’s speed. If he can polish his skills in pass coverage, he should be on the field for passing downs this season.

The Texans offensive line is a well-known issue, and we’ll get to see just how raw rookie tackle Julien Davenport really is at this point. Everyone knows about his long arms, but he hasn’t seen much NFL talent coming out of Bucknell University. The Texans are probably hoping he can develop faster that they initially projected because of the absence of Duane Brown. I’m curious to see if he can handle the power he is about to face tonight against the Panthers defensive line.

Finally, the Texans receivers are going to have to step up this year after the injury to Will Fuller’s collarbone. We’ll see if the Texans use Jaelen Strong outside to replace Fuller, or if they try and use Braxton Miller in that spot. This is probably Strong’s last chance to prove himself to the Texans. He’s already in his third year in the league, and he hasn’t done much to demonstrate that he’s a starter in the NFL.


Image via: 247sports.com


Can the Texans cover Christian McCaffrey?

I must say, I am very excited to watch several new Texans players tonight, and some of the veterans as well. The first thing I will look for is to see Christian McCaffrey catch a short pass, and see if Cushing or McKinney can get a hand on him. One of the Texans biggest weaknesses last season was covering RBs out of the backfield, and there might not be a more dangerous pass-catching back than McCaffrey.


Image via: hcpress.com


The Texans o-line could be in trouble

I will also be judging the Texans ability to pass protect for Tom Savage and Deshuan Watson. If Watson is going to get some meaningful snaps in the preseason, the line is going to have to keep him alive. Kendall Lamm and Chris Clark will be playing a lot of snaps at tackle, and tonight will be a good test to see if the Texans can live without Duane Brown. If they can’t even run their offense because of the ineffectiveness of the line, it’s going to be impossible to tell what you have at QB and the skill positions. Plus, all these guys on offense need quality reps playing together. The Texans have four different starters on offense penciled in this season that weren’t starting in last season’s opener.


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J.J. Watt should see the field tonight

I know what Watt can do when he is healthy, so I just want to see how he’s moving tonight. I’m a little surprised to hear the Texans are planning on playing him, so we’ll see how much he’s actually out there. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Watt make a big play against the Panthers underwhelming offensive line.