I don't know that there was ever any point during the NFL lockout where I was fearful that we wouldn't have football this season. Still, the specter of the work stoppage that loomed over us throughout this summer made us at least ponder life without the NFL.
Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, a deal got done and away we went in late July. However, for some reason, the free agent frenzy didn't totally get it done for me (the age old "slow build being better than the hot shot finish" theory in play -- Rick Pitino knows), training camp isn't doing it. I need games. Even fake games, like the one in Reliant tonight.
Two teams in different uniforms on television -- preseason games work for me. So here are five things I will be watching through tears of joy tonight over on Kirby:
1. The debut of the 3-4 defense Lights, camera, action! It's time to see what all the Wade Phillips fuss was about. Seriously, I half expect Wade to get his own separate entrance music and promo video on the Jumbotron. Is it crazy to say he's the offseason acquisition most are most anxious to see? It's only a preseason game, so what we see out there tonight shouldn't have much bearing on how we think it will go this season. That said, if the one's give up a touchdown, and Mario Williams (first night in his new outside linebacker digs) has to turn and cover a tight end or a back a couple times, and the touchdown is scored with the charred remains of Kareem Jackson nearby....I'm just sayin'. Which brings me to...
2. Wanted: Cornerback opposite Johnathan Joseph Kareem Jackson is going to get every chance to win this job, and really, why not? His week-to-week journey to the Castle of Suck last season was followed up with an offseason of attending cockfights in the Dominican and winding up on promotional posters for a porn convention. Kid deserves every shot. "Reliable NFL starter" for a playoff hopeful seems like a next logical step, no? No? No. Okay. Brandon Harris, be ready.
3. Matt Leinart I don't have the exact numbers in front of me, but I believe that Matt Leinart's quarterback rating in practice these first couple weeks is roughly 3,472.3, around there. (This is based on the tweets of John McClain and the comments of Gary Kubiak, which were so effusive in their praise that they led someone as respected as Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com to surmise that a slow Texans start could have Leinart seeing the field.) Fact of the matter is, the best-case scenario for the Texans is that Leinart becomes a training camp phenom, plays well in some mop-up duty this season (or a spot start, if needed) and then they flip him for a second round pick to one of the losers on the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes. (Early chalk: the Buffalo Bills, who have shown in the Rob Johnson trade that they're not afraid to trade for a laid-back former USC quarterback looking for a big payday.)
4. Wide receiver reality show It seems to be this foregone conclusion that the Texans are just fine and dandy on offense and that the defense is the only thing that needs to really be fixed. Yes, there are probably 20 or so teams that would, without even thinking, trade offense with the Texans. A few more would have to think about it. (By my count, the teams who would say "NO" to that trade without thinking would be New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Philadelphia, Green Bay, New Orleans and probably Atlanta. Eight total. So the Texans are a top ten offense.)
Well, for an offense that is going to be so explosive, their wide receiving corps after Andre Johnson is:
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-- Kevin Walter (solid, but fans clamored for a new number two all offseason) -- Jacoby Jones (likable, fun-loving, inconsistent and now with a little extra pocket money on a new three-year deal; not the best combination) -- Dorin Dickerson (practice squad most of last season) -- ....and?
Now, I realize that Owen Daniels (now healthy, knock on wood) is basically another receiver. I also realize that this is a system, and the faces don't really matter beyond number 80. But is it not a little scary that it's HIGHLY likely that one (maybe two) undrafted free agent rookie wide receiver will make the 53-man roster?
5. Reprise of the "Watch Jon Weeks Run Down On Punt Coverage" game By now, if you read me regularly here, you know my feelings on the Texans' everyman whose job it is to launch the ball back to the holder and the punter roughly ten times or so each Sunday. I think he's awesome. I don't know him personally, but the fact that in uniform he looks like one of my listeners won a contest to play for the Texans for a day makes him quite lovable. I'm giddy about reprising the "Watch Jon Weeks Run Down On Punt Coverage" game tonight.
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.