No matter where you were, if you care about the NFL or Houston Texans football, your mind was probably elsewhere on Saturday night, and frankly that's kind of how it looked for the Texans. They appeared to be understandably distracted and discombobulated, and that's without even mentioning the spate of injuries on the offensive side of the ball.
Trying to pull relevant themes from this game is like extracting teeth, but we will do our best. Here are some winners and losers from Saturday night in the Big Easy...
4. Bruce Ellington
I don't know if I can recall a player at a competitive position being picked up off the street and going from unemployed to "lock to make the roster" faster than Ellington, who had another four catches on Saturday night, and continued to show a little bit of the wiggle and elusiveness that's been missing from the backup receivers on this team for years. The thing right now is, because of all the injuries to the receiving corps (add Wendell Williams to the list, another broken clavicle), Ellington might start in the opener in Week 1.
3. Jordan Todman
Rodman was picked up off the street just four days ago, seemingly because of the lack of bodies at running back (more on that in a moment). However, Todman has a skill that has been severely lacking on this team since Jacoby Jones left a few years back — he is a dangerous return specialist. And with all due respect to Tyler Ervin, who's been given every chance to seize the returner's role, he is no sacred cow. If Todman is a better option, the Texans should explore it, and his 31-yard return to start the second half was a nice reminder of what it's like to have a decisive, fairly explosive veteran back there to return kicks.
2. Brennan Scarlett
With all of that world class talent in the Texans' front seven, Scarlett is sort of the forgotten man. However, the second-year pro showed up nicely on Saturday night with six tackles in the box score, and an overall activity level that shows he should be able to keep up and, at the very least, play the John Simon role for this defense.
1. The defense
Speaking of the defense, they were undoubtedly the bright spot last night (if anybody cared... honestly, I don't know if can ever remember watching a football game I cared less about, given that it's preseason and given that Houston is one huge retention pond right now). The first teamers managed to get off the field against Drew Brees without sustaining any major damage, although Ted Ginn's 48 yard run on the first play of the game was not a great look (called back on a block in the back penalty). The main goal of the preseason defensively — J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney entering Week 1 of the regular season healthy — was accomplished.
4. The medicals on offense
As healthy as the defense is headed into the season, the offense is a one gigantic triage unit. The Texans went into last night's game missing three of their top four receivers (DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, not to mention Riley McCarron, who was making a bid to make the 53-man roster), three of their top five running backs (Alfred Blue, D'Onta Foreman, Akeem Hunt), their top tight end (C.J. Fiedorowicz) and their starting left tackle (Duane Brown, holdout). That's why it's hard to even make an assessment of progress (or lack thereof) with Tom Savage and Dehsaun Watson. The cast they played with, particularly Savage, who will start Week 1, doesn't even remotely resemble the cast that will surround them in the regular season.
3. Xavier Su'a-Filo
One player who was out there on Saturday as an anointed starter, as he's been for nearly two seasons now, is left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, the former 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft. Every offseason, it seems like we hear about a recommitted and better conditioned Su'a-Filo, followed by promises of improvement, and every concurrent season, we get the same thing — decent run blocking and a semi-disaster pass blocking. Su'a-Filo is what he is at this point, and my hope is the team gives serious thought before giving him any type of long-term extension in this, his contract year. (As a frame of reference, my co-host Ted Johnson, who played five seasons for Bill Belichick, thinks Belichcik would have cut Su'a-Filo over a year ago.)
Tough to conduct a battle at the place-kicker spot when the only kick in the game is the opening kickoff. Sorry, Nick Novak and Ka-imi Fairbairn!
1. Brock Osweiler
Unless he winds up getting traded and starting for one of these teams with quarterback issues — and I pray every night that the Colts decide to do this in Andrew Luck's absence — it appears as though the book may be closing on Brock Osweiler, so sadly we will all be deprived of his third grade explanations for why he stinks so badly at playing quarterback. DeShone Kizer, the rookie out of Notre Dame, will start Week 1 for the Browns, and Brock will be a $16 million backup, barring a trade.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.