WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- After two long weeks of training camp, the Houston Texans will finally get to compete against another team in Wednesday's preseason opener, and Tom Savage is looking forward to it.
"I know our offense and defense are kind of getting on each other's nerves right now, so it'll be good to take it out on someone else," the quarterback said with a smile.
He will get that chance after being named the starting quarterback for Wednesday's game against the Carolina Panthers, where he said his goal for the evening is simple -- score points and protect the football, both things that the Texans struggled with at quarterback last season.
Here are three things to watch on Wednesday night:
What will Houston get at quarterback? Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said all three quarterbacks -- Savage, Deshaun Watson and Brandon Weeden -- will play against the Panthers, starting with Savage. While Savage is currently the starter, Houston does not know exactly what they are getting from him.
He has been with the Texans since he was their fourth-round pick in 2014 -- O'Brien's first season with the club -- but has only appeared in five NFL games and started just twice. Savage has been injured each of his first three seasons, and is yet to throw a regular-season touchdown. Savage has looked good during training camp, but his true test will come in live action.
Watson, who the Texans traded up in the first round to draft with the No. 12 pick, has impressed their coaching staff in his less than four months with the team. He has done a good job of picking up the offense in practice, but in-game action will be a different story. Watson will likely work with the second team in the game and will have the chance to show the progress he has made.
O'Brien said he is looking for all three quarterbacks to have a "good operation of the offense," to "take care of the football," and to get "in and out of the huddle quickly."
"From all three of them, just a clean game, a clean operation," O'Brien said. "[Get] everybody on the same page and see if we can score some points."
How much of J.J. Watt will we see? The Texans have been careful with Watt during training camp as he returns from back surgery, but he said he's looking forward to being back on the field and being able to hit the quarterback. Watt returns from injury to a Texans' defense which finished 2016 ranked No. 1 in the NFL, and can make a big impact in his return.
In practice, he and outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus have done a good job putting pressure on Savage. While it remains to be seen whether he can return to the level he played at in 2015 -- 17.5 sacks, 76 combined tackles, three forced fumbles and an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award -- getting back on the field on Wednesday will be a good test for Watt.
How will the offensive line look without Duane Brown? A year ago, when the Texans were playing preseason games without Brown, it was because he was recovering from an injury. When Houston takes the field without the veteran left tackle on Wednesday, it's because he did not report to training camp, an absence that is thought to be contract-related. It seems unlikely that Brown will continue to hold out during the regular season, but the Texans' first preseason game will be a good indication of where the group will stand if he does not show up.
Without Brown, O'Brien is likely to start Kendall Lamm and Chris Clark at the two tackle spots and see if either is capable of starting at another position of need -- right tackle, assuming Brown eventually returns to play on the left side.