HOUSTON — The Houston Texans improved their preseason record to 2-0 after escaping Saturday’s bout against the New Orleans Saints with a 16-9 win.
Texans’ Brock Osweiler, who didn’t particularly have a sound game in the preseason opener against San Francisco, threw his first touchdown in a Houston uniform—a beautiful fade to wide receiver Will Fuller in the first quarter—which ultimately proved to be the difference-maker.
Osweiler stayed slotted at QB till the latter half of the second quarter and finished with 124 yards on 12-of-19 pass attempts and one touchdown. Tossing 4-of-7 for 27 yards in a subpar display in his debut, Osweiler showed a little less happy feet and more of a loose demeanor this time around.
“I think every single time I step on the field, whether it’s the practice field or it’s in a game situation, I’m becoming more and more comfortable,” Osweiler said. “Obviously there’s a lot that goes into this offensive system—mic points, checks, alerts, conversions, option routes—and so every single time that I’m able step on the field and get reps and study this offense, practice this offense, play in this offense, I become more comfortable.”
Fuller, who like Osweiler was all but invisible in the preseason opener, and who only saw one target in his debut, had eight pigskins thrown his way, which led the team, and garnered 73 yards off four receptions to go with that aforementioned paydirt snag.
Seemingly involved in every play, Fuller’s sputter out the NFL gate didn’t drag, as the first-round selection showed glimpses of how effective he can be and what challenges he may present to opposing defenses. Nonetheless, as time stretches, like Osweiler, the opportunity to excel looms.
“He’s [Fuller] a smart guy,” head coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s definitely picked up the offense well—I’d say the same thing for Braxton [Miller]. It’s not an easy offense to learn as a rookie receiver.” O’Brien also referenced Fuller—and Miller’s—collegiate experience attributing to their quick transitional awareness, and that “they’re good learners and hard workers, which is a key.”
Houston’s defense arguably played the biggest role in coming away victorious, which included the return of marquee linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Brian Cushing, who both missed last Sunday’s matchup with the 49ers.
Cushing, after being a healthy scratch in Week 1 this preseason, didn’t miss a beat, as he went about his dominating prowess patrolling the field and laying vicious licks—Saints’ C.J. Spiller fell victim to his thunderous blow on the Saints’ second offensive play. The 29-year-old All-Pro looked physically primed and led the Texans with six total tackles.
Clowney, who was also absent in San Fran due to knee soreness, performed strong as well. Providing the pressure that kept Saints’ Drew Brees scrambling all night, Clowney bagged a 14-yard sack on the Super Bowl MVP, which riled the crowd to the loudest roar of the night.
“It felt great; it’s a good feeling,” Clowney said about sacking Brees. “It felt pretty good. I’m trying to just do what I can for the team, get off the ball, rush, [and] try to get to the quarterback—try to get to the quarterback.”
Only head honcho on defense the Texans have missing now is, of course, J.J. Watt. And when the big fella comes knocking, Houston’s defense will come full circle. When other players like Clowney are receiving extra attention (double-teams), Watt is going to be that X-factor that allows others around him to be big contributors.
“Oh, yeah, we need him,” Clowney said. “We need him back. He’s doing his best to get healthy [to] try and get back out there for the team.”
Overall, the Texans as a whole were poised and showed cohesive chemistry that essentially rear-viewed their last outing—despite that resulting in a win, too. Execution and their ability to zero in on the minor details that separate good teams from great ones was prevalent, and a positive stepping stone in the right direction.
The Texans will look to keep the ball rolling against the Arizona Cardinals, who are 0-2 this preseason, next Sunday, Aug. 28.