Three things to pay attention to tonight as the Texans host the 49ers at Reliant Stadium:
The offensive line: Derek Newton gets the start at right tackle instead of Rashad Butler as the Texans want to work out the right side of their line. The plan is for Newton and Butler to get equal time, just like Antoine Caldwell and Brandon Brooks will at right guard. While Caldwell and Butler are the favorites with more experience, the more raw Newton and Brooks bring more physical upside. One of them could find his way into the starting lineup, and a strong showing against the tough Niners front will do a lot.
The return game: Trindon Holliday made a big showing in the preseason opener, and he brings a frightening speed to the job. But his history has been to get hurt or mess up after any success. If he can stack another good game on top of the first one, he will make it increasingly difficult to envision the roster without him, whether he can contribute as a receiver or not. (I don’t believe he can, he’s just too small.)
Bulls on parade: It’s what fans have taken to calling the impressive defensive front and the rush it produces. J.J. Watt (elbow) will still be absent, but that didn’t stop the Texans from harassing Carolina’s quarterbacks last week. As Arian Foster and the run game make the offense go, the pass rush tends to define the defensive success. Early on, do they allow Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick any comfort level and time? If not, I’d expect a big play or two that sets the Texans up for great field position.