Here's hoping O'Brien treats this game like a typical second preseason game and plays Mallett a full half.
Here's hoping O'Brien treats this game like a typical second preseason game and plays Mallett a full half.
Eric Sauseda

Broncos-Texans: Four Things To Watch For

Given the fact that it's been less than 21 months since Gary Kubiak was fired just hours after returning home from a terrible Thursday night road loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars (You remember that night? When D.J. Swearinger decided to try to break the record for boneheaded penalties in one game? Whatever happened to that guy anyway?), I have to admit that it feels awfully weird seeing him return to Houston gainfully employed as an NFL head coach.

Hell, not just gainfully employed as an NFL head coach, but employed by a respected team. I figured for Kubiak to get back into the coaching game, he'd have to lower his standards to the NFL franchise equivalent of "drunk chick at 2:30 a.m." (that'd be the Chicago Bears). Instead, he wound up with a smoking hot sorority girl (that'd be Denver). Not just that, but in the ultimate irony, the guy who was dating the smoking hot sorority girl (John Fox) had to go running to said "2:30 a.m. drunk chick" just to keep a job.

The NFL is a weird place sometimes, man.

So now Kubiak and Friends make their return to NRG Stadium for Week 2 of the preseason, a game in which we will likely see little to no J.J. Watt for the Texans, and, according to Kubiak, plenty of Peyton Manning for the Broncos. As we get ready for the weekend, let's touch on a few things to watch for in Saturday night's game.

4. Texans secondary
It would appear that the Texans are going to hit the field on Saturday without Watt and most assuredly without Jadeveon Clowney, who just returned to practice this week from months of rehab on his right knee. On the other hand, Kubiak has indicated that Manning will play and play plenty. That means the Texans' secondary gets the opportunity to prove itself against one of the best quarterbacks in the league without the benefit of the two guys who should (Clowney's health permitting) be their best two pass rushers. This could be either really inspiring, or really horrifying. Also, it bears watching to see if safety Corey Moore and cornerback Charles James kill each other on the heels of their budding internal feud captured on Hard Knocks. 

3. Ryan Mallett
Brian Hoyer led the first team offense to a touchdown on their first drive against San Francisco and then didn't play the rest of the night. I'm guessing if Mallett leads the first team offense to a touchdown on their opening drive Saturday, he will probably stay in the game. I hope he does. Here's hoping, in fact, that O'Brien treats this game like a typical second preseason game and plays Mallett a full half. If he does, this will probably be the most important 25-30 snaps of Mallett's professional career to this point, an opportunity to show what he can do against a top ten defense. Total hunch — Mallett needs to not just impress, but REALLY impress to win the starting job. Also, Hoyer falling on his face would help the cause. Speaking of that….

2. Offensive line depth
Last week, Mallett had to do his damage behind some weird makeshift combinations of backup offensive linemen, which is scary when you consider the Texans depth chart right now. Their starting five is solid — Duane Brown, Jeff Adams, Ben Jones, Brandon Brooks, Derek Newton. Beyond that, setting last year's second round pick Xavier Su'a-Filo aside for a moment, the whole thing is journeymen and undrafted free agents. The Texans have done a nice job rebuilding depth in other places, but the offensive line seems to be getting attention the latest of any area (Su'a-Filo is O'Brien's only draft choice he's used on the o-line in two seasons), which is akin to remodeling an entire fixer-upper house and waiting until the very end to fix the leaky roof. It would be nice if a few of these backups showed a little something. Hell, it would be nice if the Texans could score from the one yard line in fewer than seven tries. 

1. Kubiak and Friends
As mentioned earlier, Kubiak returns home with his hot new girlfriend of an employer. Here's the thing — we were in a relationship with Kubiak for eight years, so we know he will inevitably screw something up, in part because he hired virtually the entire same staff that rose to prominence in 2011 and most of 2012 and then cratered in 2013. In other words, he's still hanging out with the same crowd. At some point, they will do something to get him in trouble, kind of like your high school friends that you let drive your car. Decent chance you wind up in Lake Michigan or crashed into a fence post. Gary is trusting Wade Phillips and Rick Denison, who are shaky designated drivers, at best. 

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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