Texans-Saints: Four Things I'll Be Watching
In the end, the NFL lockout really didn't deprive the average NFL fan of anything. Sure, the hardcores didn't get OTA's or an extended free agency period (and couch potatoes didn't get Hard Knocks), but we still got a draft, a condensed free agency period and, most importantly, a season!
However, one of the "off the grid" items that the lockout deprived media members of (oh, and players, them too) was the intersquad practice time between the Texans and the New Orleans Saints. Those are always some of the best practices of the year, with a practice fight always a matter of when not if.
It's funny actually, when I asked him who would be involved in the first fight of the week last August, Andre Johnson actually told me, "Man, no one likes to fight out here. It makes you tired in this heat!"
I think I speak for all Texan and Andre Johnson fans when I say, thankfully, Cortland Finnegan decided to act like an asshole in the comfort of 72 degree air conditioning last November.
(And by the way, if the announcers on that clip don't piss you off, then you're not a Texan fan. Yeah, that was all Andre's fault for "taking the bait" -- and by the bait, they must mean Finnegan repeatedly jamming his hands underneath Andre Johnson's face mask at the line of scrimmage.)
Fortunately, we still get a game between the Saints and the Texans, and even more fortunately the lockout occurred on an odd-numbered year (Texans go to New Orleans in even-numbered years), so my boondoggle to the Big Easy remains intact!
Now for a few items I'll be watching this Saturday night:
4. (Undrafted) Free Agent Frenzy In the first preseason game on Monday night against the Jets, a couple undrafted rookie free agents stepped up big time. Linebacker Bryan Braman stepped up and looked like a real playmaker on the edge (time to get him some playing time against better players to see if he's for real), and wide receiver Lestar Jean (pronounced le-STAR, which of course is French for "the star") looked like he might live up to the eyeball test, which screams "potential player." Anxious to see both guys build on that.
3. Run, Foster, Ruuuuunnn The defending rushing leader in the NFL missed the opener, playing it safe on a tweaked hamstring. It looks like Arian Foster will get the requisite handful of series this Saturday. He actually strained the hamstring on a long touchdown run in practice (that's the good news), but hamstrings are tricky and linger (that's the bad news), so get him enough reps to get his feet wet, let Ben Tate come in and get injured (annual ritual), then pound Chris Ogbonnaya 25 times. (Seriously, if the running backs remain as dinged up as they are now, Ogbonnaya is going to be as beat up as mid-80s Earl Campbell by the regular season opener.)
2. Not So Special If the Texans want to increase beer sales (and really who doesn't want more drunks in their stadium?), then they need to create a drinking game where the crowd has to chug their beers every time the Texans have a kickoff return of less than 20 yards and a punt return of less than, say, seven yards. The beneficiaries? Beer vendors, taxi drivers, drug stores (hangovers, ya know), DWI defense attorneys -- we're talking a HUGE kickstart to the local economy.
1. Two scoops of VERY vanilla Last weekend, Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams dialed up so many blitzes against the 49ers (18 in the first half) that I started to wonder if Niners quarterback Alex Smith might have slept with his wife. This weekend, don't expect the same thing against the Texans. As former Saints quarterback (and current Saints broadcast team member) Bobby Hebert told me on my radio program today, typically teams only dial up the blitz packages for one game each preseason (kind of an unwritten rule, like in baseball), and they did that last weekend already. Also, these two teams play in Week Three of the regular season, so it's probably going to be ultra vanilla on both sides.
Basically, this will be a good game to start in with the drinking game from the previous bullet point.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Yahoo! Sports Radio (Sirius 94, XM 208) and on 1560 The Game, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.