Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC South [Print without images]

Saturday, August 22, 2009
What I'll watch closely in Texans-Saints

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

HOUSTON -- Greetings from the press box at Reliant Stadium. No nosebleed to report yet.

As the Texans prepare to square off against the Saints, here are a couple things I will be paying close attention to.

1. Who sets the physical tone? There were some fisticuffs at the Thursday morning joint practice. They weren't all involving the New Orleans defense, but new Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has his troops playing with high energy. The Texans' offense needs to stand up to that and Houston's defense needs to do its best to have a similar mindset with energy and tempo. Houton and New Orelans were top offenses last season, and it would be nice if the Texans showed they can get into rhythm at this stage of the preseason.

2. Ball security and red zone production: As we discussed in the Camp Confidential from Houston, turnovers and touchdowns are major themes. Matt Schaub and Dan Orlovsky both need to avoid turnovers and direct a more confident red zone offense, while pass catcher and running backs have to hold on to the ball. Inside the 20, take note of how the Texans run. All offseason they've been working on running it better once they get close to the goal line.

3. Antonio Smith and Connor Barwin: Can the team's two new linemen, a free agent addition and second-round draft picks respectively, produce any pressure on Drew Brees or Mark Brunell? We don't know how much of Brees we'll see, but he's a great test for a defensive front that's supposed to be able to generate more pressure on quarterbacks, easing the jobs of the guys in coverage on the back end. If they can't make Brees work fast, we could see the Texans' weakest unit exposed.