The New England Patriots will look to show some improvement on Saturday after a disappointing effort in their preseason debut last week. Here is what you need to know about the Houston Texans before the two teams square off in Week 2:
Texans’ quarterback battle is heating up
The plan when the Texans drafted Deshaun Watson 12th overall this year was to let him sit behind Tom Savage and develop. After Watson went 15 of 25 for 179 yards and a rushing touchdown in his preseason debut, the first team reps have begun to even out in Houston training camp. Savage may be competent enough to keep his job for now, but the defending National Champion Watson is ahead of schedule and looking comfortable. Bill O’Brien will have a tough decision to make whether to let the rookie loose or risk falling behind in a much more competitive AFC South. Another 8-8 season won’t cut it.
The coaching staffs know each other very well
The Bill Belichick coaching tree is strong in Houston. Coach O’Brien spent 2007 to 2012 as an offensive assistant and offensive coordinator in New England, and when he left he brought some Patriot family with him. Assistant head coach Romeo Crenel (1993 to 1996, 2001 to 2004), defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel (2001-2008), and special teams coordinator Larry Izzo (2001-2008) all spent time as a player or coach under Belichick. Even running backs coach Charles London served as director of stadium operations for Gillette Stadium from 2001 to 2004 before starting as a coaching intern in 2005 with the Patriots. The Patriot way runs deep in Houston.
JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are healthy
The most feared pass rushing tandem in the league has yet to experience a full 16 game slate together, however, both are on track to start Week 1 on the field. Watt missed 13 games last season due to back surgery and Clowney has had a plethora of issues since being drafted first overall that has led him to miss 17 games in three seasons. Watt played only one series in Houston’s Week 1 preseason game against Carolina but should receive an increased workload on Saturday. Not great news for Tom Brady.
Deandre Hopkins is on a ‘pitch count’
Receiver Deandre Hopkins has not missed a game in his four year NFL career to date, but the Texans are still being conscious of their number one threat. Hopkins has been a non-participant since their first preseason game, spending most of his time working on the side out of uniform. When talking to reporters on Monday, O’ Brien described it as having him on “a little bit of a pitch count.”
Teams held joint practices this week in West Virginia
The practice facility at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia was originally built for the New Orleans Saints in 2014. The Texans have now designated the remote facility as their training camp destination and the Patriots joined them on Tuesday for joint practices. Bill Belichick has become increasingly fond of the intrasquad practices leading up to preseason games, even signing or trading for opposing players following those practices (see Brandin Cooks). The teams will travel back to Houston for their Saturday game.
New England beat Houston 27-0 with 3rd strong quarterback last year. They will play again Week 3
There may be some bad blood left over from 2016 as the Patriots embarrassed the Texans in Week 3 behind third string quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Of course, New England was fully staffed when they routed the Texans again in the AFC divisional round, 34-16. The two teams are set for another Week 3 matchup this season in Foxborough.