NFL Preseason Week 4: Texans-Cowboys — Four Things to Watch For
The Texans' coaching staff will be getting a good look at the back end of their roster tonight.
Friends, families, agents, degenerate gamblers and post-game show hosts.
Other than the decision makers for the 32 NFL teams prepping to scour the waiver wire on Friday, that list above would seem to encompass the entirety of people who are interested in Week 4 of the NFL's preseason, with its massive swath of frontline players in street clothes and frequent cries of "Who the hell is that again?" in the crowd after virtually every tackle.
It just so happens that I fall into two of those categories listed above, so I will take an interest — a working interest and, perhaps, a financial interest — in the Texans and Cowboys tonight up in Arlington at AT&T Stadium. Let's see if we can find a few reasons for you casual viewers and you non-gamblers to watch and enjoy this game....
4. Return game
If the regular season were to begin this Sunday, I'm not sure who would be returning the opening kickoff for the Texans. Tyler Ervin has had the lion's share of the return work, and he looked much more decisive against the Cardinals, including in a 58-yard kickoff return. But Braxton Miller got a little bit of work early, and throughout the preseason, we've also seen Wendell Williams (returning kicks being his only chance of making the team), Will Fuller (guessing he's done with that returning noise) and Cecil Shorts (may not make the team at all). This is Ervin's job to lose, but Williams's breaking a couple off tonight would be interesting and, at the very least, create a post-game show topic for me and Ted Johnson on SportsRadio 610.
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3. Running back rotation
When it comes to running backs, this much we know (or can readily assume) — Lamar Miller will be in street clothes. After that, it's a free-for-all. I think you could honestly make a case for three or four different running backs as the second-string running back right now. (Jonathan Grimes is the only one who's definitively far down the depth chart.) Kenny Hilliard was second into the game the first two weeks, Alfred Blue was the starter for most of last season, Tyler Ervin is making the team because they drafted him, and Akeem Hunt has shown the second most juice behind Miller. There will be a capable player getting cut or sent to the practice squad. It's amazing how quickly this position became deep.
2. Shorts versus Humphrey
Similarly to running back, in less than a year's time, the Texans have gone from Shorts and Nate Washington (who was cut by the Patriots last week) as their number 2 and 3 receivers, to Fuller (and his 4.3 speed) and Miller (with all his bravado and play-making capability) as 2 and 3, with a much improved Jaelen Strong as the spare fourth tire in a rotation behind DeAndre Hopkins and the two rookies. Is it really this easy to upgrade speed and get scary in the passing game? Just go out and find really, really fast guys? To be fair, the fast guys need to be able to play, and Fuller and Miller have transitioned incredibly smoothly into the league, no doubt a function of the big stages they played on in college. The real battle in this group is between Shorts and Keith Mumphrey for the fifth (and likely final) spot in the receiving corps.
1. Quarterbacks (for sale?)
Brock Osweiler will be put into bubble wrap until the season opener on September 11, no doubt. This will leave Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden to get through the Dallas game healthy and intact. Right now, I have O'Brien keeping all three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, and we know Osweiler and Savage are making the team. I do wonder if Weeden gets a majority of the reps because a) he is the third stringer, and b) the Vikings might be in the QB market after Teddy Bridgewater's injury, and the Texans could conceivably flip Weeden for a draft pick. Not a great pick, but something.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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