HOUSTON -- Quarterback Brock Osweiler appeared to have much better control of the Texans’ offense in Saturday’s 16-9 victory over the Saints.
Osweiler, who signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Texans in March, led the Texans down the field in the first quarter and went 4-for-4 for 51 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Will Fuller.
His worst throw of the game was a pass intended for Fuller, and that was intercepted by Saints cornerback P.J. Williams. Even so, the game was a step in the right direction for Osweiler.
Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney looked explosive in his return, especially when he beat Saints tackle Andrus Peat to sack Drew Brees for a loss of 14 yards. Head coach Bill O'Brien gave him extended snaps in the game to make up for the reps he missed while out for a week with a sore left knee.
QB depth chart: Osweiler got more of a chance to show his knowledge of the offense against the Saints than he did in the preseason opener. He finished 12-for-19 for 124 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The touchdown pass to Fuller in the first quarter was a nice spiral to the right corner of the end zone. On the interception, it looked like he didn’t give Fuller enough room to catch the pass in the corner of the end zone. The interception was Osweiler’s last attempt, and he was replaced by Tom Savage after fives series. Savage looked OK, and his longest drive was seven plays that resulted in a field goal. He finished 7-for-12 for 75 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden took over with just under 10 minutes left in the game and had a nice 15-yard pass to receiver Keith Mumphery in his first series and an 18-yard throw to receiver Josh Lenz.
Maybe that dude could start: Defensive end Christian Covington, who started in place of the injured J.J. Watt, impressed for the second straight week. Covington had a sack and two tackles for a loss on Saturday. The second-year player missed time earlier in training camp because of a concussion, but he has looked good in practice and the first two games since he has been back.
Who got hurt? Several players, including defensive end Watt (back) and tackles Duane Brown (quadriceps) and Derek Newton (hamstring) did not dress, but there were no injuries announced during the game.
A surprise player who impressed: Fifth-round pick D.J. Reader, who played just 18 snaps last week and had not made much of an impact during training camp, played well Saturday. He finished with three tackles, and though he won’t start, the nose tackle looked like he could hold his own if starter Vince Wilfork were to miss any time.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Texans looked …: much better than they did last week. It wasn’t just Osweiler, either. The defense’s work on tackling during practice this week paid off, and veteran inside linebacker Brian Cushing was all over the field, with six tackles and a pass defended in the first quarter. The starters played a little longer than they did last week, and most importantly, they came out of the game without injuries.
One reason to be concerned: The starting offensive line is not getting playing time together. Tackles Duane Brown (quadriceps), Derek Newton (hamstring) and center Nick Martin (ankle) all missed Saturday’s game. Right guard Jeff Allen was not at the game due to a death in the family. Although missing preseason games isn’t too concerning, the starters have not had an opportunity to play together so far in training camp. O’Brien pointed out earlier in the week that it has been good for the backups to get more reps, but he acknowledged that it is important for the starters to get reps together soon.
RB Tyler Ervin is getting chances on kick and punt returns: O’Brien said earlier in camp that one of the reasons the Texans drafted Ervin this year was because of film they saw on punt returns during his time at San Jose State. O’Brien gave Ervin plenty of opportunities Saturday, but he did not make much of an impact. He did muff a punt last week but was clean Saturday.
Kicking battle: O’Brien gave kicker Nick Novak the chance to attempt all three field goals, and he hit all three (from 49, 46 and 36 yards). Rookie kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn, who made the Texans’ only field goal last week, did not attempt a kick. O’Brien has not yet named a starter and said he does not have a deadline in mind to do so.