NFL Preseason Week 1: Texans 23, 49ers 10 — 4 Winners, 4 Losers

NFL Preseason Week 1: Texans 23, 49ers 10 — 4 Winners, 4 Losers
Photo by Eric Sauceda

Football is back. Does it matter that it's watered down, close to the vest, sloppy football? Does it matter that on the list of things that were important about Saturday night's game between the Texans' backups' backups and the 49ers' backups' backups the final score was like 39th on the list? Does it matter that, on the "comparing to a TV show" conversion chart, the first preseason game most costly resembles the horrific True Detective season finale that aired a week ago, where they were introducing new characters seemingly right up until the final minute where you were like "Who the hell is that again?"

No, no, and no. That's the answer to all three of those questions. None of those things matter. There were helmets, shoulder pads, Toro, questionable music, cannons fired after field goals… it was FOOTBALL TIME IN HOUSTON! THE BEGINNING OF THE CHANDLER WORTHY ERA!!!

Ok, I'm drunk.

Let's get to the winners and losers from Saturday night's win over the shell of the 2012 San Francisco 49ers….

WINNERS

4. Brian Hoyer
Bill O'Brien has gone out of his way to stress how this quarterback competition is truly that — a competitive endeavor in which both sides (in this case, Hoyer and Mallett) have a decent shot at winning the starting quarterback's job. So it does seem slightly odd that amidst a "competition" one side would run eight plays and then get the rest of the night off to wear a baseball cap and make fart jokes with the fellas on the sidelines. It would seem to me that you'd want to see a little more from one of the "competitors" than four throws. That's the treatment Hoyer got last night. He got the Tom Brady Treatment. Read into it what you will. I am reading into it that Mallett really needs to win this thing away from Hoyer, like the Texans starting QB job is a WWE belt and Mallett must PIN BRIAN HOYER FOR THE TITLE, MEAN GENE!! If it's a draw (or a double count out, or double disqualification, or Hoyer's manager interferes with the referee, or Hoyer throws salt in Mallett's eyes…), Hoyer will retain the belt. O'Brien is implying that this thing is still a ladder match, with the Texans' starting QB job hung high above the 50 yard line for either guy to snag. Ok, now I'm REALLY drunk….

3. Chandler Worthy
If we are looking for other position battles that are beginning to take shape in Texans' camp, here's an interesting one — Chandler Worthy versus Alan Bonner for the kick returner/sixth wide receiver spot. Unlike last season, when the Texans were deciding which mediocre receivers to keep around as their third, fourth, and fifth guys, this season, the Texans will have to decide which capable receivers they're going to have to cut. It's a much deeper group, even without Andre Johnson's star power. So we know DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts, Nate Washington, Jaelen Strong, and likely Keith Mumphrey are all making the team. None of them is an explosive kick return guy. Bonner has looked good in camp, and Worthy is a burner who played well Saturday night. One of these two guys is going to make the team, one won't. Every kick return matters this preseason. This will be the easiest beauty contest to decipher out of all of them because we will watch every kickoff and punt return with great scrutiny, and we know when they're coming. 

2. Kourtnei Brown
I'll admit, I had no idea who Kourtnei Brown was before he became a Houston Texan, and I honestly didn't really care very much until he got two sacks on Saturday night. So I went and looked at his Wikipedia biography. Here are the stops on the Kourtnei Brown World Tour which began in 2012:

San Francisco 49ers (2012)*
Washington Redskins (2012-2013)*
Buffalo Bills (2013-2014)*
Detroit Lions (2014)*
St. Louis Rams (2014)*
Spokane Shock (2015)*
Houston Texans (2015–present)

And yes, those stops all have the dreaded Wiki Career History Asterisk, which means he was basically a training camp/offseason body in all these places. So here's to hoping that Kourtnei Brown has two more sacks this weekend, and again the next two weekends after that, and gives the Texans something to think about at outside linebacker. Basically, it'd be nice if Kourtnei Brown could unpack boxes for once in his life. 

1. Louis Nix III
For what he's lacked in existence on the field, Nix is trying to make up for in honest quotes about his continually evolving status with the team. After playing snaps in all four quarters at nose tackle on Saturday night, here's what Nix said:

“Coach [Bill O’Brien] wants a lot of out of everybody,” Nix said. “Being hurt, being down about it, it’s a frustrating time for me. I was pretty nervous, but it just felt good to get out there and not be hurt. I’m just happy to be healthy again.”

Maybe I feel for Nix more acutely because I followed him so closely at Notre Dame, when he was injured and missed most of his 2013 season as well, but I really am happy for him that he finished a game feeling healthy for the first time in nearly two years. Nix is going to make the team, so he will be important depth behind Vince Wilfork along the defensive line.  
LOSERS

4. Ryan Mallett's ability to gauge goal line touchdowns
This is my snarky way of citing this set of plays during the first quarter, when the Texans had multiple cracks at the end zone from the one yard line and came away with nothing:

1st and 1 at SF 1 (4:10) J.Prosch right guard to SF 1 for no gain (A.Bethea; S.Skov).
2nd and 1 at SF 1 (3:31) A.Blue left end to SF 4 for -3 yards (M.Purcell).
3rd and 4 at SF 4 (2:47) (Shotgun) R.Mallett pass incomplete short right to A.Bonner. PENALTY on SF-T.Brock, Defensive Pass Interference, 3 yards, enforced at SF 4 - No Play.
1st and 1 at SF 1 (2:37) K.Hilliard right end to SF 1 for no gain (M.Purcell, N.Moody).
2nd and 1 at SF 1 (2:11) K.Hilliard left tackle to SF 1 for no gain (Q.Dial).
3rd and 1 at SF 1 (1:35) (Shotgun) J.Grimes up the middle to SF 1 for no gain (E.Harold, A.Bethea).
Timeout #1 by HST at 01:07.
4th and 1 at SF 1 (1:07) A.Blue up the middle to SF 1 for no gain (E.Reid, S.Wright).

Ryan Mallett signaled for a touchdown after every single one of these runs. Obviously, he was just hoping for the best, but it was funny how many times he was left shaking his head at his backs and offensive line. Mallett overall looked decisive and solid. The only questionable moment for him was when he called an audible into a QB sneak on 3rd and 4 near midfield. (Actually, all three quarterbacks played decently, all with passer ratings of over 100.0 for the game.)

3. Chris Polk
Of the four running backs on the roster, the one I was hoping to see some juice from on Saturday night was Polk. I just feel like we know what Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes are and will be. Polk, I hoped, might have something extra in the tank, an extra club in the proverbial bag. Nah, he was on the street for a reason. He will probably make the team, but Arian Foster needs to get healthy ASAP.  

2. Texan fans who enjoy being entertained
As someone who, before having game day duties with my employer, used to attend many Texans games as a fan, one of the most enjoyable parts of the game day experience used to be pregame introductions, where they'd introduce the starters from either the offense or defense individually. It gave the fans multiple opportunities in rapid fire to get excited, get their money's worth, cheer J.J. Watt, the whole nine yards. I have to imagine it was also fun for the players getting introduced individually as well, a small reward for the punishment they take on a weekly basis. We all love affirmation! Now, we get this….

BOOOOOOOO…. hey look, I understand the message — we are not a group of individuals, we are one team, one heartbeat, blah blah blah….. I just think it's dumb, and I think it willfully removes something that is fun for fans, rewards players, and has zero bearing on how a team plays over the next few hours. (NOTE: This might be the most "relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of the world" thing that I feel VERY significantly about.)

1. 49er fans
I'll just leave this right here….

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.


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