A few Houston thoughts
By Travis Stewart // TexasFootball.com
The oft-repeated claim that nothing important happens in a preseason NFL game is both true and false. It's true in the sense that no resulting statistic is worth discussing — systems and play calls and positions are so skewed and half-backwards that there's no true analytic measure to really do due justice to a player's performance.
The falsehood of it is that you can still glean a fair amount of info from actually evaluating how a player looks on the field in game action. In that sense, it's the exact same thing as the preseason high school scrimmages we all get so excited about — for the most part, you can watch a guy play and get a pretty good idea of whether or not he's going to be a factor any time soon.
That said, I find myself feeling fairly certain that Chris Ogbonnaya, the Strake Jesuit and UT-ex that seemed so far out of sight for a roster spot a few weeks ago that he wasn't even worth mentioning ... is going to make this team! It's part preparation, part providence — Ogbonnaya has drawn rave reviews for his work ethic and exactness on the field, but he's also been lucky enough to watch the four backs in front of him (Arian Foster, Steve Slaton, Ben Tate and Derrick Ward) all fall to short-term injuries.
It's not terribly common for a team to carry four running backs, and you know Foster isn't going anywhere. The coaches like Ward. Tate is a second-round pick who missed his rookie season with injury. Slaton was an exceptional talent just a few years ago. By the roster spots, it would seem like Ogbo would be one of two odd men out. But I think Slaton may be moved, somehow. That would mean Houston — a team that wants to run the ball first — could make this work if it carried four running backs. It's possible.
Side note: It's not lost upon me that Ogbo looked better catching than ball than he did running it last night. That, folks, is what playing running back under Greg Davis will do for ya'.
I didn't get to see enough of the defensive starters in Wade Phillips' new-look 3-4 style to really get a good idea of how well a relocated Mario Williams and Connor Barwin, plus a rookie DE in J.J. Watt, looked. The front seven — especially the linebackers — really got into the backfield all night, which is a positive. The defense attacked downhill for most of the evening. Compared to departed Frank Bush' reactionary style of the past few seasons, it was a welcome change.
I was a little geeked to see Matt Leinart play, largely because the coaching staff (mainly Gary Kubiak) has been shockingly vocal in their praise of the former Heisman winner so far in camp. On the field, he looked comfortable, if not spectacular. Can you really ask a whole lot more of your backup quarterback than that? I guess at the rate Houston is paying him (several million per year), the answer is yes.
Lastly, it's my personal opinion that you can draw a pretty good bead on kickers and punters in the preseason. Kickers have a history of being either good, or abruptly losing their confidence and falling off the face of the earth. Neil Rackers boomed two from 40-plus last night (47 and 49). He looks fine. And considering how tragic Houston's recent history has been in the kicking game ... shoot, they'll take it!