Was preseason football fever in full swing on Saturday?
Well, late Saturday afternoon, I managed to make it from my home near downtown to the area near Reliant in almost record time, thanks to very light Saturday traffic.
As I drove down Murworth to the media parking area, roughly two hours before kickoff for a Saturday night game, I was greeted with a virtually empty Yellow Lot with sparse tailgating here and there. The usually pervasive smell of barbecue and grills was almost nonexistent.
At an intersection that would normally be crowded with hordes of J.J. Watt and Arian Foster jerseys, I made my way across Kirby with one solitary man, an old man probably in his '60s with a ponytail, and he was dressed in a Brooks Reed jersey. (For a second, I thought perhaps I was in the future.)
The old man had one of those clear Texans bags that the team is giving out as an answer to the terrorists (and I'm sure this has the terrorists flummoxed to no end), which along with the new video board were the two biggest topics on the radio as I drove into the game. not football, not the game -- clear bags and a video board.
So yeah, since you asked, preseason football fever was in full swing over at Reliant Saturday night!
Amid all of the craziness I just outlined, they actually played a game (I know, right??), a game in which the Texans knocked off the Dolphins 24-17. In that game, and around the world yesterday, there were winners and losers. I am here to tell you about them. Gather 'round, kids....
4. Everybody on the Texans with a functional right arm In this game, Gary Kubiak did what he normally would do with Matt Schaub, which is give him a few series and get him the hell out of there. Schaub was fine. He threw a pick on the first series where the receiver fell down and then had a touchdown pass to Owen Daniels to close out his stint. Good enough. The intrigue around the city of Houston is on the backup spot, where Case Keenum (former Coog, local hero and future mayoral candidate) got his reps with the number twos this week in his battle with T.J. Yates (outsider, monster heel and totally forgotten underrated hero of the 2011 season).
How did they both do? Well, here you go:
Keenum 11-18, 150 yards, 1 TD Yates 7-9, 84 yards, 1 TD
Both did fine, so really nothing got solved. Everyone was a winner in that there were no losers. My hunches on the backup quarterback spot remain the same: a) it's going to go down to the final minute of the last preseason game (and be fluid all season) and b) Yates is going to have to screw up royally to not be the backup heading into the regular season.
3. Brian Cushing's knee I'm not afraid to admit that I got chills when Brian Cushing was introduced last night (but full disclosure, I get chills during almost every introduction of wrestlers at WWE pay-per-views, so I'm a bit of an intro whore). Even though it was a meaningless game, it still had meaning to Cushing (and apparently to me -- it's still real to me, dammit!) in that this was the first real test of his surgically repaired knee against players in non-Texans uniforms. And man, was he flying around or what?! He had a classic Cushing play on a stuffed screen pass in the first series, and then maybe the most encouraging play from a health standpoint was one that was actually a terrible football play, where he came flying in on Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill like he was trying to give him the King Kong Bundy splash in the corner and he totally whiffed, allowing Tannehill to escape the rush and make a positive gain. If it were a regular season game, Cushing would have been skewered, but since it's the preseason, we were just happy to see he could jump. PRESEASON FEVER, CATCH IT!!!
2. Channel 13 I watched the game from the press box, where we get the Channel 13 video feed, but with no audio, so I can only assume that things were totally back to normal this week after last weekend's debacle of a preseason opener from Minnesota. The video appeared to stay up the entire time, and judging by my Twitter timeline, the number of Joel Meyers roster faux pas' were not at an unusual level (normal level is 1.12 RFP/min). Hell, it appears that the Channel 13 production team may have even started a subtle heel turn as we had multiple shots of the same child scarfing down cotton candy like he had been on a hunger strike. That's good shit!
1. The weather It's hard to get a bunch of people who are sitting inside at a sporting event to focus on the weather, and I'm sure that this makes the weather feel neglected and shunned. Poor weather... But now, thanks to the killer high-def combination of the brand new video boards (not sure if you all have heard, but they are the largest in all of sports!!) and KHOU weather goddess Chita Johnson, I have to imagine that the weather is going to get more attention at Texans' games than it's ever gotten in the team's history!
That said, I don't have the heart to break it to the weather that any uptick in interest is probably more about Chita Johnson in high definition than it is, y'know, the weather. I'm pretty sure you could have Chita Johnson on the new video big board reading the ingredients off the back of a ketchup bottle, and people would be like "You know what's awesome?...KETCHUP!!"
(By the way, if there were a Game of Thrones style battle for ruling meteorology in Houston right now, Chita Johnson is the Khaleesi. On this, there can be no debate.) LOSERS
4. The Reliant Stadium turf Poor DeAndre Hopkins got his indoctrination to the driving range tee box that is Reliant Stadium's turf the hard way. First, he slipped hard on his cut on the route where Schaub threw his interception. (I don't know if the pass would have been complete, but Hopkins would have at least been able to break up the pick if he had stayed upright.) Then, later in the half, Hopkins appeared to bang is head on the turf after a reception, resulting in his first NFL concussion. (Welcome to the league, rook!!) Only the Reliant turf could be simultaneously soft enough to not allow a clean cut on an in route and hard enough to give a guy a concussion. I blame Johnny Manziel (no idea why, just seems like what everybody's doing).
3. Dustin Keller Fortunately for the Reliant turf, they escape culpability on this one -- no, the blood of Dustin Keller's shredded knee is on the hands of the new helmet-to-helmet rules. I won't post the video here, if you were at the game, you saw. If you weren't, it was a disgusting tear of Keller's ACL, MCL, and PCL (pretty much all the important CL's) when Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger went in low on a tackle of the Dolphins tight end after a short catch. Now, if you've watched Swearinger play (or even watched his college highlights at South Carolina) you know he's a big hitter. He had three helmet-to-helmet penalties last season that cost his team dearly. As a rookie (especially one coming off an inauspicious debut last week, missing a tackle that resulted in a 61 yard touchdown), the last thing he wants to do is go anywhere near the head. Swearinger said as much after the game, that he was afraid of being fined. So he goes down low, as low as he can go. And now Dustin Keller's season is over, a season in which he took a one year "prove himself" deal. Just an horrific byproduct of the shortsightedness of the NFL's overly cautious, capriciously enforced helmet-to-helmet rules.
2. Geno Smith (both of them!) Alabama head coach Nick Saban hates distractions, so if you're a player, the last thing you want to do is piss him off. Unfortunately for the player involved, I think this story is going to piss Saban off:
University of Alabama sophomore cornerback Geno Smith was arrested for Driving Under the Influence by UAPD late Saturday night/Sunday morning and held at the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office. Bond was set at $1,000.
Smith has been the Star cornerback in Alabama's nickle defense. The 6-foot, 186-pounder played in 13 games, starting two, his freshman season and recorded nine tackles and two pass break-ups. Smith's role in the defense increased later in the season as he established himself as the nickleback cornerback. He is expected to play a key role in this season's defense.
That's unfortunate. What's even more unfortunate is that I'm virtually certain that somehow Jets quarterback Geno Smith will catch some of the blame for this, even after the media finds out that it wasn't the same Geno Smith.
1. Dennis Johnson Throughout rookie minicamp, undrafted free agent Dennis Johnson was drawing raves from many of my fellow media members. Now, understand that rookie minicamp (and OTA's, as well) involve no hitting and no real contact, so the guys who tend to stand out are a) quarterbacks and receivers (because everybody understands throwing and catching), b) guys who are freakishly big or athletic (the Jacoby Jones Corollary, this year's winner? Willie Jefferson!), and c) guys who are unusually diminutive.
Which brings us back to Johnson.
During mini camp and OTA's, Johnson looked really good, I guess. I mean, he looked really quick, and really decisive, and looked like he could be a cute, little story. I mean, eventually guys would be, y'know, allowed to tackle him, but as long as they weren't, wow, look at those little legs churn!! Then, everybody started to put pads on, and hit, and it wasn't as cute. And Johnson hasn't been nearly as good. Granted, against Minnesota, he had nowhere to run, but on Saturday against the Dolphins, he had two fumbles (losing one of them), didn't do much in the return game, and had four carries for eight yards.
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The third running back spot behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate remains up for grabs. Handicapping it right now, I'd say it looks like this:
Deji Karim -160 Cierre Wood +250 Dennis Johnson +600 Ray Graham +1500
Karim's experience and special teams prowess are a huge difference maker for him right now. I'd bet that the runner up will be a practice squad guy, whoever that is.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.