Following the Texans final “real” practice before their second preseason game against the Miami Dolphins at Reliant Stadium on Saturday night, it appears that there are a few position battles that are legitimate and will get decided on the field over the next 3 games leading up to the regular season opener in San Diego against the Chargers.
Keep your eyes on these players performances on Saturday night.
1. Left Guard: Ben Jones/David Quessenberry: Clearly this is Wade Smith’s position, he was selected to the Pro Bowl this past season. But he had his knee scoped this week and frankly made the Pro Bowl off of previous seasons, which were actually better than last season. Nonetheless, 2nd year OL Ben Jones will start this week and rookie OL David Quessenberry has shared some of the first team reps throughout the week. Quessenberry has been impressing the staff since OTA’s and mini-camp. He’s been used at left guard and right tackle. Kubiak’s assessed the situation today saying, “It’s a competitive situation with Wade (Smith) out. We’ll see what happens, but Ben’s been having a very good camp. Quess (enberry) has probably come as far as a young offensive linemen as we’ve had in a while, so it’s going to be a competitive situation over the next few weeks.”
This battle matters a great deal because of the uncertainty regarding Smith’s return. Jones got a ton of work last year seeing 61% of the team’s offensive snaps. However, I don’t think that matters much, since he lost his job without a fight at right guard to Brandon Brooks during the offseason. The winner of this battle could very well be starting the season at right guard.
2. 3rd Running Back: Deji Karim/Dennis Johnson/Cierre Wood: Arian Foster will sit again, although as Kubiak noted this morning on Foster, “Hopefully, we have a clean weekend and we wake up Monday and we get back to work.” Ben Tate will start again and along with the rest of the starters is expected to play the first quarter. Karim is the lone veteran in the group, amassing 98 carries in three NFL seasons. Kubiak noted that he wanted to see more of him, so expect to see him early in the game. Karim probably has a leg up on the others because o f his kick return skills, he’s 10th among active players in kickoff return average. (Safety Danieal Manning is actually third all-time, although he returned just 1 kicks last season.) Johnson is almost a carbon-copy of last year’s third running back Justin Forsett and he will also have a chance o grab that spot due to special teams work. Wood impressed last week against Minnesota, expect to see him also get work against better competition this week to see how he fares.
Even with bad injury history for both Foster and Tate, this battle is not a great concern and I’d expect them to be looking for outside help if either Foster or Tate was out an extended period of time during the regular season. I’ve said from the time the offseason started that the job would be Dennis Johnson’s, I still believe that, but my conviction on that is waning.
3. Backup QB: T.J. Yates/Case Keenum: I never truly believed this would be a competition this year, but clearly it is. Keenum will be the first QB to replace Schaub this week, expect to see him in the 2nd quarter. Kubiak maintains that he merely wants to give the back-ups equal reps and this will help to accomplish that. However, they’re obviously trying to push these two by making it a real competition. Yates has started 7 NFL games, including playoffs, helping the Texans win three of them. Keenum attempted 18 passes in the preseason opener, which were more than he’s attempted in his entire career, including preseason last year. Yates started slowly last week, throwing high early before settling in and going 5-for-7 and 5-for-6 on a pair of scoring drives in the second quarter. Keenum was sharp for his whole outing, suffering through a couple of receiver drops, but also finding the endzone with a scoring toss to Lestar Jean.
Honestly, this battle hardly matters. If Schaub gets hurt, they won’t stick with either of these two if they don’t play well. If Yates is the number 2 and he has to play and plays poorly, then Keenum will get the call. The same is true if Keenum wins the gig. Also, if Schaub gets hurt, the Texans might be in big trouble.
– Wex (@awexler)