Three things to monitor with Texans

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The Texans get the "Monday Night Football" spotlight as hosts to Minnesota tonight, though Brett Favre will grab a lot of the attention. Here are three things I'll try to watch closely:

The run defense: The defensive front got handled last week by New Orleans, with the Houston defensive tackles having an especially difficult time. On a day when the team dealt defensive tackle Travis Johnson, who'd been out recovering from surgery to repair a sport hernia, can the remaining tackles show they can play much better? Or is run defense going to show itself to be a continuing issue and leave us all wondering how much of a boost first-round linebacker Brian Cushing can help when he gets back from a knee injury? The Vikings are a premier run team and should provide an excellent measuring stick.

Ball security and red zone running: Cutting down turnovers is priority No. 1 for the Texans, so the first-team offense needs to drive the ball and not give it away. And once they get inside Minnesota's 20-yard line, let's pay attention to how effectively the Texans are able to run it. They believe running the ball more effectively at close range is the big key to curing their red zone production issues. And in the recent loss to the Saints, the first-team's nice touchdown drive seemed to do well to address it. More please.

Pass pressure: The secondary doesn't qualify as a team strength, and the Texans are counting on an improved rush to help things on the back end. It'd be nice if Mario Williams had some company trying to make Brett Favre, Tarvaris Jackson and homecoming king Sage Rosenfels uncomfortable. If they are allowed to throw on their own timing, I expect defensive ugliness whether it's a future Hall of Famer or future trade bait dropping back.