However, word came down late Sunday night, via Texans' social media, that the two teams had discussions and opted to cancel the two joint practices. The game is still slated for Sunday night on FOX. Here was the announcement on the Houston Texans' Twitter page:
This left many in the media, and probably some fans planning a long weekend in New Orleans, wondering what exactly happened that compelled both teams to deep six the practice sessions. Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network came to the rescue:
Joint statement from the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints pic.twitter.com/CbuovSlIFG— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) August 21, 2023
I'll admit, I was very excited when the original training camp schedule was released, and it included joint practices with not one, but TWO teams. Joint practices are lively and fun, and include opposing first-string players going full speed (which is rarely the case during practices that are "Texan on Texan")! However, I did wonder if four joint practices and two games in a ten day period would be a bit much.
#Saints HC Dennis Allen says DeMeco Ryans reached out to him this morning to note the #Texans had players banged up. Allen says both coaches felt they wouldn’t have had a productive joint practice, so they decided to cancel and work on their own. https://t.co/kR41HzVcpl— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 21, 2023
As it turns out, DeMeco Ryans thinks it would have been a bit much. So aside from several media members now having to cancel three days worth of dinner plans in the French Quarter, what's the fallout from this mutual decision by Ryans and Saints head coach Dennis Allen? By my estimate, it goes as follows:
The silver lining in reshuffling the schedule for this week
While the work in these practices would likely have proven valuable, especially for young players, the Texans appear to be maximizing the changes back to a conventional week here in Houston in a unique way. In addition to canceling the joint practices in New Orleans, they also announced there would be an off day on Tuesday to go with a scheduled off day on Monday. They will likely practice Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before traveling Saturday to New Orleans for a Sunday game. Why is this significant? Well, it's because this is what a normal NFL regular season work week looks like. This revised schedule will give rookies a chance to learn the ebb and flow of a standard "week that counts" on the NFL calendar. It's a minor thing, but a nice silver lining in terms of overall procedural preparation for the season.
Exactly how banged up are the Houston Texans?
I suppose this is the big concern, but the fact of the matter is that the Texans have had fairly good injury luck during the preseason. The most significant injury has been right tackle Tytus Howard's broken hand, which could force him to miss the first two weeks of the regular season. (Full disclosure, he could also be back in time for the season opener, as he just had his cast removed recently.) Center Scott Quessenberry tore his ACL and MCL, but all that's done is accelerate the ascension of rookie Juice Scruggs, who's looked capable thus far. Aside from that, it's a lot of hamstring tweaks and mysterious soft tissue "tightness" (what up, Tank Dell?). The big thing here is probably the overall timing of these practices. These would have been the last two joint practices among any teams in the NFL, and healthy or not, it's just too close to the regular season to take risks.
How much do the starters play on Sunday now that joint practice is canceled?
This is the biggest question that needs answering, because the joint practices are widely viewed as more valuable work for first string players than the preseason games. If that's indeed the case, this means, if rookie QB C.J. Stroud were to sit out Sunday's game (as some starters do), the extent of Stroud's "quality" work, against actual NFL opponents would consist of two series against New England, and two practices and two quarters of work against the Dolphins. That's simply not enough work against "live bullets" to best prepare Stroud for Week 1 in Baltimore. Stroud must start this game, and play a couple quarters like he did on Saturday against Miami, and by proxy, this means the starting offensive line must play, in order to protect Stroud.
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