Eight starters didn’t play in Friday’s game but the Texans were still able to emerge victorious with a 27-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Those starters include receiver Andre Johnson, tight end Owen Daniels, guard Wade Smith, fullback Greg Jones, defensive end J.J. Watt, defensive end Antonio Smith, inside linebacker Brian Cushing and cornerback Johnathan Joseph. If you count running back Arian Foster and free safety Ed Reed, who are currently on the physically unable to perform list, it was a total of 10 starters.
Rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins scored the Texans’ first touchdown of preseason on a 34-yard pass from T.J. Yates. Hopkins went up over cornerback Bobby Felder in the end zone and came down with the ball. “T.J. put the ball where it needed to be,” Hopkins said. “I came down with the play. Hopkins had four catches for 52 yards and Jean had six catches for 52 yards.
Case Keenum, battling for the Texans’ backup job with T.J. Yates, threw a 2-yard TD pass to Lestar Jean with 10 minutes to go for the tiebreaking score. Keenum later led a 42-yard scoring drive with four minutes left to finish up the scoring. Keenum finished 13-of-18 for 125 yards and a score. Yates was 13-of-21 for 151 yards, including the touchdown pass to Hopkins.
Starting quarterback Matt Schaub went 5-for-5 for 34 yards on his only drive of the game. Schaub’s drive opened the game’s scoring with a 48-yard field goal by Bullock.
Rookie safety D.J. Swearinger missed a tackle as Minnesota fullback Zach Line rumbled 61 yards for a short catch and run for a second-quarter score. It capped a 96-yard drive.
It is very rare for Swearinger to miss a tackle. His high IQ and great tackling ability is one of the reasons the Texans drafted him with their second pick. “I should have gone for his legs and made the sure tackle instead of trying to blow somebody up,” he said. “I’ll learn from that mistake.” As far as a grade for his first performance, Swearinger said, “I give myself a B-minus.”
Although pro bowl defensive lineman J.J. Watt didn’t play in the first preseason game, the Texans recorded four sacks, with 3.5 of those coming from lineman Earl Mitchell and Terrell McClain.
There’s some heated competition for the job as the third running back behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Three undrafted rookie free agents Dennis Johnson, Cierre Wood and Ray Graham have been competing with veteran Deji Karim.
All four had their moments against Minnesota. Johnson was the first off the bench behind Tate, and he had 11-yards on seven carries. That included a 13-yard run.
Wood led the team with 59 yards on 10 carries, including runs of 16 and 20 yards. Karim had 37 yards on six carries, an average of 6.2. Graham generated 26 yards on four carries, including a 5-yard touchdown run. He averaged 6.5 a carry.
“They’ve all got the ability,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “They’re a little bit different players. I think I’ve mentioned to you all that Deji is the best special teams guy of the four. He’s got more experience there. Can 41 (Wood) and 28 (Johnson) battle him that way because special teams will be very important. Graham probably had the least reps (in practice), and he plays really well. It’ll sort itself out. All four of those kids have not missed a practice or a snap. That’s impressive. I think they’ve all got an excellent chance to play in this league. We’ll see if they end up with us.”
The Texans return to training camp and play their first preseason game at Reliant Stadium next week against Miami.