Sean Pendergast

NFL Preseason Week 2: Texans 24, Rams 20 — Four Winners, Four Losers

It was another uneven performance for Davis Mills on Friday night.
It was another uneven performance for Davis Mills on Friday night. Photo by Jack Gorman
We know there is a vast community of people out there who are paid solely to watch and analyze football for a living. It seems like a majority of these folks are putting this in ink — they think the Houston Texans will be the worst team in football this season. I'm not here to make a bold prediction that the Texans will "shock the world" or anything, like Davis Mills did last week, but I do think, based on three weeks of practice and two preseason games, that they will be better than many folks think.

Friday night in Los Angeles was, at the very least, a second straight example (following the win over the Saints in preseason Week 1) of the backups showing some balls and some resourcefulness in stealing a last minute win, this time a 24-20 win over the backups and backups' backups for the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.

Now, let's be very clear — there are still some major concerns on this team, in particular Davis Mills and the first team offense. We will get to them. However, let's start with four winners (and we will get to the four loses) from Friday night's game:

WINNERS

4. Nico Collins
If you've been at Texans' training camp, then you've seen the progress Collins has made physically. The second year wideout, much like his second year classmates, looks like he's been in an NFL weight room for a year. However, we saw very little Collins in the win over the Saints. On Friday, though, Collins was the Texans' most important non-QB on the field. In one half of play, he had four catches for 48 yards, including a jump ball touchdown with one second left in the half to give the Texans a 7-6 lead going into the locker room. Collins is the most unique physical freak in the receiving corps, and I would expect that jump ball he caught to be a red zone staple for the Texans this season.
3. Jeff Driskel
I don't know if there is a less significant player on the Texans roster who has caught more disproportional heat over the last year than Driskel, whose wildly inaccurate incompletions in camp have become legendary. Credit Driskel, though, because this preseason, he's been given two opportunities to show why he deserves a roster spot, and he has seized the day, with a last minute touchdown drive against the Saints, and then a similar one against the Rams on Friday night. Sure, a 46-yard pass interference penalty on the defense probably isn't a sustainable thing to count on for success, but the subsequent TD pass from Driskel to tight end Mason Schreck was a thing of beauty!
2. Derek Stingley, Jr.
Friday night, Texan fans finally got to see a glimpse of the brief glimpses we've been getting out at training camp of the Texans' great hope for the future, third overall pick Derek Stingley, Jr. Stingley is coming back from a foot injury that shelved him for most of his final season at LSU, and the team has been bringing him along at a very measured pace, out of an abundance of caution. On Friday, though, Stingley was running with the first unit, looked perfectly in place out there, and even flashed a little taste of why Nick Caserio loves him so much, with a pass breakup on a short route. Stingley is going to be a special player, and I can't wait for a full workload for him in Week 1 against the Colts.

1. Dameon Pierce
It's weird to have the No. 1 winner in this feature be a player who didn't see the field, but the very reason rookie RB Dameon Pierce didn't see the field is the reason why he is No. 1 in the "WINNER" category — he has basically sewn up the Texans' No. 1 running back position, after just five preseason carries against the Saints. He is that far ahead of the other backs on the roster, and the Texans wisely realize that there is no reason to burn carries on Pierce's odometer in the second half of a preseason game against a bunch of Rams "try hard" guys trying to make an NFL roster. Good job, Texans, and all hail, DP!

LOSERS

4. Chester Rogers
I feel bad for Chester Rogers, who is already facing an uphill climb to make this team. He busted off a 30 yard punt return earl in the third quarter. Shortly thereafter, he had a chance to build on it, and this happened:
Bye bye, Chester Rogers.

3. Ross Blacklock
The position battle where there are the most arguable bodies for a roster spot is probably along the defensive line. My postgame show cohost, Clint Stoerner, and I went through the exercise of trying to narrow a group of about 13 players down to 10, which is believed to be the number Lovie Smith will end up taking into the regular season. Having gone through that exercise, let me tell you this — Ross Blacklock is in serious danger of not making this team. The former 2020 second round pick had two bad penalties ON THE SAME PLAY to set up the Rams' go ahead touchdown, and he did nothing to make up for it throughout the game. No splash plays, no plays behind the line of scrimmage. Rookie undrafted free agent Kurt Hinish is a better player than Blacklock right now. Blacklock came to the Texans with the pick the team received for DeAndre Hopkins, which makes the salt in the wound burn even more.

2. Marlon Mack
I am rooting for Marlon Mack, I really am. I root for anyone who has to come back from a career threatening injury, and Mack has worked hard to return from the Achilles tear that ended his 2020 season with the Colts. That said, Mack just doesn't look like a running back this team can lean on to be a significant part of a revamped running game. He is light years behind Dameon Pierce, and I would submit that backup Dare Ogunbowale had far more burst and wiggle on Friday night. Beyond that, there is about to be a flood of running backs on the open market when teams cut their rosters down over the next ten days, and I have to think Nick Caserio will be sifting through the running back market like it's the bargain DVD bin at Walmart.

1. Davis Mills
This is the biggest concern right now — Davis Mills doesn't look like he's made any advancements in his game. In giving this take, I will concede that he doesn't have his left tackle, center, or top wideout on the field with him for these games, so there is that. However, Mills had several flat out bad throws on Friday, throws that looked like the early rookie season version of Mills from 2021. In trying to remain optimistic about Mills, I am going to hang my hat on some of the practice performances I've witnessed, and again, the mere fact that it's the preseason and he is playing with a makeshift offensive line, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous right now.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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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 the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast