NFL Houston Texans

Houston Texans: 5 Things to Watch for vs. New Orleans Saints

1 of 6

5 Things to Pay Attention to in Houston Texans' Game Against New Orleans

Matt Schaub & Drew Brees
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans play the third of four preseason games this Sunday at 4 p.m. ET, hosting the New Orleans Saints. This is the "dress-rehearsal" game of the preseason, when everything is supposed to be gelling together and looking like a professional football team.

Unfortunately, a few injuries have already derailed a little bit of the Texans' chemistry. Not enough to impact their chances to compete for a Super Bowl this season, but enough to make this sports blogger glad that the team's first regular season game comes against the San Diego Chargers.

There's always a silver lining to any cloud though, and that's easily seen here. With all of the injuries to starters, Texans rookies like A.J. Bouye and D.J. Swearinger have received significant playing time against NFL veterans that they might not have otherwise seen.

Another good thing about these injuries (if ever there is a good thing about injuries) is that they're coming now in the preseason, and not in the regular season. Fans have seen the wheels fall off of the Houston train to the Super Bowl in the past two seasons, and hopefully they are just getting them out of the way now and it's not indicative of what's to come.

All that being said, this is still by far the most important game of the preseason. This is the game where all of the starters (except probably not Arian Foster and a few other injured players) will get at least two quarters of game time and the bubble guys will play their hearts out because this is the last game many of them will see against this level of competition.

Cooper Welch is a Houston Texans writer for Follow him on Twitter @cooperwelch1991, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

2 of 6

5. The Backup Quarterback Battle

Case Keenum
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It now looks like T.J. Yates has won the backup quarterback spot, as he will follow Matt Schaub at quarterback Sunday when the Texans face the New Orleans Saints at Reliant Stadium.

“T.J. will go second in this game,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Friday during a media interview. “What I hope to do is that when Matt does leave the game whatever time is left, I hope to split the time (between Case Keenum and Yates). But T.J. will be the second guy.”

Case Keenum has competed well for that second spot, but Yates was pretty much a shoo-in for the role as he has way more experience and has performed as well as Keenum over the past two games. It now looks like Keenum will go back to quarterbacking the practice team, as the Texans probably don't want to waste a roster spot on a third quarterback.

3 of 6

4. Who Will Start for Antonio Smith?

Antonio Smith
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Smith lost his appeal, and will now miss the rest of the preseason and the first game of the regular season for ripping Richie Incognito's helmet off and swinging at him. Right now, it looks like Tim Jamison will start in his stead, but Jared Crick could also see some time here.

4 of 6

3. The Third-String Running Back Battle

Deji Karim
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Kerns has already covered this battle extensively, but I'll touch on it briefly. At the end of training camp Dennis Johnson looked like a surefire bet to have the third-string spot, but after an average game against the Minnesota Vikings and two fumbles against the Miami Dolphins, he probably won't be with the Texans after the final cuts.

Deji Karim could now have the job as he's been impressive and is a great player on special teams, but Cierre Wood could also compete for this job. Whatever happens, this position should be decided by the end of the game against the Saints.

5 of 6

2. Shane Lechler

Shane Lechler
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As I said in my post over the Texans' special teams last week, picking up Shane Lechler was probably the second best move Houston made over the offseason (and maybe the best if Ed Reed misses a bunch of games). We haven't seen him play yet, but he could see a little action in this game. Not much though, as Gary Kubiak doesn't want him hurt.

6 of 6

1. Wide Receivers

DeVier Posey
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

DeAndre Hopkins and DeVier Posey are both sitting this game out, so it'll be an interesting opportunity to get to see LeStar Jean get some serious playing time.

Keshawn Martin is almost assuredly the third receiver, with Andre Johnson and Hopkins ahead of him on the depth chart and Posey and Jean behind them.