Sean Pendergast

NFL Preseason, Week 4: Cowboys-Texans — Four Things To Watch For

Texan fans, you'll see a lot of Joe Webb on Thursday night.
Texan fans, you'll see a lot of Joe Webb on Thursday night. Photo by Eric Sauseda
In our business, the business of opining on and watching sports (great gig, if you can get it, by the way), the fourth preseason game in the NFL is seen as more of a nuisance than it is a coverable event. What is there to be learned from watching our backups' backups go against another team's backups' backups? Well, the answer is "Not very much, honestly."

However, a year ago this week, Harvey was still unloading on all of us with a year's worth of rain crammed into three days, and as a result, the Texans fourth preseason game, a matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, was cancelled. So needless to say, I could care less that half the guys playing tonight will be bouncers at nightclubs in a week. Playing this game, and covering this game, beat last season's alternative.

Now, there are still a small handful of reasons to watch tonight. I'll try and lay them out for you here.....

4. Wide receiver battle
On my 53-man roster prediction from earlier this week, I have the Texans keeping six wide receivers, which is a bit of an overload compared to conventional roster numbers. (Most teams keep five.) Quite, honestly, you can make a case for seven of the guys in camp to make this team, when you throw in the performance of undrafted rookie Vyncint Smith (out of that football factory Limestone). Back in 2015, the Texans kept six wide receivers coming out of camp, and a week into the season they traded Keshawn Martin to the Patriots, along with a sixth round pick, for the fifth round pick that became D.J. Reader. As it just so happens, the Patriots need wide receivers again this season, too.

3. Joe Webb
The quarterback position for the Texans has more sauce top to bottom on the depth chart this preseason than last preseason, with Deshaun Watson in Year 2 of the Deshaun Watson Era, Brandon Weeden making the team instead of getting cut, and Joe Webb doing late game preseason magic! The games ultimately mean nothing, but it's been fun seeing Webb put the Texans in position to win a couple games with some late game throws. We will likely see a TON of Joe Webb tonight, so it's one more chance to feel like the Texans have a capable third string quarterback, a feeling that gives you like a 30 minute boost of energy you weren't counting on!

2. Who totes the rock
So with D'Onta Foreman appearing to be headed for the PUP list to start the season, running back depth is a big concern of mine. I'm anxious to see if Bill O'Brien treats Alfred Blue like a vested preseason vet here, and sits him out along with Lamar Miller, or if Blue plays and gets a few carries. Aside from that, it would be nice if Troymaine Pope showed some more flashes in the passing game and return game, and it would be nice if one of Lavon Coleman or Terry Swanson did enough to warrant a lock on the practice squad.

1. Special teams
This is really the only area where a job or two might be won or lost. Best I can tell, the Texans have about a dozen guys battling for a half dozen or so spots, across the offensive skill positions and the linebacking and secondary groups. The differentiator for these players may ultimately be how they perform on special teams. So, players to keep an eye on during coverage and return would seem to include — Blue (if he plays), Pope, Jay Prosch, Sammie Coates, Braxton Miller, Tyler Ervin, Peter Kalambayi, Josh Keyes, Ben Heeney, Ufomba Kamalu, Kurtis Drummond, Treston Decoud, Corey Moore, Dee Virgin, and Andre Chachere.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast