Houston Texans: Deji Karim

A Houston Texans holiday cornucopia

December, 25, 2013
When he came to the podium on Tuesday afternoon, Houston Texans interim coach Wade Phillips said he wasn't sure if he was allowed to wish us all a Merry Christmas, but he planned to do it anyway.

He arrived after a short jog-through the Texans held on Tuesday so that the team could have Wednesday off. Being so close to a game, Phillips preferred to do that rather than push players' bodies.

For your reading pleasure as you do regular holiday things like argue with relatives and watch NBA games (just me?), I present 10 random things about the Texans.

1. The Texans signed running back Ray Graham, a rookie out of Pittsburgh who spent training camp in Houston, on Tuesday as well as fullback Toben Opurum, a rookie out of Kansas. This to help solve their running back woes.

2. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph and running back Deji Karim were placed on injured reserve, joining the pretty good team the Texans have stored on that list. Joseph becomes the team's fourth Pro Bowler on IR.

3. Andre Johnson's favorite Christmas present growing up was a Miami Dolphins/Dan Marino jersey/helmet/pants set he got when he was 6 or 7 years old. J.J. Watt's was a cocker spaniel puppy named Chewy.

4. Watt told Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press he might have plastic surgery to fix his nose, rather than continue to look like one of Dr. Frankenstein's creatures, which his mother hates.

5. With half a sack on Sunday, Watt would join Mario Williams as the second player in franchise history with back-to-back seasons with double-digit sacks.

6. Defensive end Antonio Smith gave the rest of his defensive linemen cowboy boots for Christmas. "I wanted to make sure they all knew how to cowboy up. I didn't want to be the only one." He was concerned that Terrell McClain wouldn't wear them because McClain has never worn boots.

7. Running back Ben Tate is famously doing acupuncture to help heal his broken ribs. Tate said he's actually been doing acupuncture for a long time to help with various kinds of pain.

8. Johnson wants to forget about this season as fast as possible -- after winning. He's not sure that's realistic, though, given that he still remembers his other 2-14 season.

9. T.J. Yates is not going to start this week. At this point, Phillips said, it wouldn't really work. Yates hasn't played in months, and chemistry was a problem even with throwing Matt Schaub back into the game.

10. Speaking of Schaub, he needs 8 passing yards to reach 23,000 with the Texans. He'll start again if Case Keenum can't go.
HOUSTON -- Thursday night the Texans take on the Dallas Cowboys in their final preseason game.

In keeping with tradition, this game will feature mostly players low on the depth chart. Starters will get the night off.

One guy who knows just how important this game can be is outside linebacker Sam Montgomery.

"It's probably the biggest game of my life so far," Montgomery told me after Sunday's game against the Saints.

The former LSU defensive end shouldn't be in this position, given that he's one of the team's third-round draft picks. But he came into camp out of shape, had to work past that, and then had to work past injuries which set him behind his teammates including some talented undrafted rookies. The Texans have made his position clear, waiting until late to give Montgomery snaps.

"It doesn't mess with me," Montgomery said. "It's just a great opportunity for someone else. ... I know what I can do for this team, and I know whenever it's the last time I step on the field, whether it's show team or anything, I give good looks to the offense."

Montgomery will be one player to watch for the Texans on Thursday. Four more follow. I've excluded undrafted rookies for this post. Gary Kubiak has been so glowingly positive about this class of rookie free agents that they deserve their own post.

WR DeVier Posey: A rare guy playing in the fourth game who isn't fighting for his roster spot. This will be Posey's first chance at game action since he suffered a torn Achilles tendon in January. He's confident, but getting some actual football snaps is necessary to for both him and the team to make sure he's ready.

OLB Trevardo Williams: Williams has also slid despite being a fourth-round draft pick. He'll get more time this weekend to try and improve his status.

QB Case Keenum: He'll be the starter in Dallas with T.J. Yates coming in second. Kubiak insists he's withholding his decision until the end of the preseason. Right now Kubiak's biggest decision will be whether or not to keep three quarterbacks on his roster. Keenum's play could force that.

RB Deji Karim: This is Karim's third stop in the AFC South and he's vying for a role that saw plenty of action last season for the Texans -- the third running back. Karim's competition for the job includes former Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood and former Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson.
After a simulated normal game week, the Texans will face the Saints this afternoon at 4 p.m. ET.

It's the game when the Texans will get to see the most of their starters (with the exception of suspended defensive end Antonio Smith, concussed receiver DeAndre Hopkins and recovering running back Arian Foster) they have all preseason. Then after this game, the starters will shut down and let the bottom of the roster sort itself out on Thursday in Dallas.

"As the veteran guys, we know where we need to be after this game," receiver Andre Johnson said. "I think that’s about it. When I walk off the field Sunday and the game is over, I want to feel a certain way and, if I feel that way, I know I’m ready to go out and play.”

Here are three things to watch Sunday afternoon:

1. This won't be the end of the line for the backup quarterbacks, but their battle continues. I'll admit, I thought this was T.J. Yates' job solidly throughout training camp. But no one can deny how well Case Keenum is playing. To be clear (and it's ridiculous we even have to say this) neither of them are playing anywhere close to starter Matt Schaub. But as backups in this league go, they are both better options than a lot of teams have. Keenum played second after Schaub last week and Yates will play second this week.

2. Watch the starters, with a few caveats. The caveats are these: Some very important starters will be missing this week as the rest of them play 30-40 snaps, which will likely last for about a half. Also remember defenses do not show everything they have in the preseason. Offenses usually look much better than defenses in the preseason (and if they don't, that's a problem).

3. You'll get about a half of the third-string running back competition. Before the games began, Dennis Johnson was the leader, but Johnson has fallen significantly down the depth chart. Veteran Deji Karim and undrafted rookie Cierre Wood are now at the top of the Texans' list. Karim led all running backs with nine carries for 55 yards last week against the Dolphins. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry with the help of a 19-yard run. Wood had five carries for a respectable 20 yards. It took him a little while to figure out exactly what the Texans wanted from him, but now that he has, he's doing well.