NFL Nation: 2014 NFL Preseason Week 3 ATL at HOU W2W4

W2W4: Atlanta Falcons

August, 16, 2014
8/16/14
12:00
PM ET
The Atlanta Falcons (1-0) play their second preseason game against the Houston Texans (0-1) Saturday night at NRG Stadium:

Three things to watch:

1. Eyes on Jake: As the teams got together for joint practices this week, much of the talk was about how rookie right tackle Jake Matthews performed against pass-rush demon J.J. Watt and the rest of the Texans' potent front seven. Matthews held his own and earned the respect of Watt and others. Now Matthews has to do the same in live action, no matter how many reps he gets against Houston's first-team defense. Since Matthews picked up two penalties in last week's game against Miami, one can bet he'll be even more focused to not commit the same mistakes again.

2. In the zone: Coach Mike Smith emphasized all week the importance of being more efficient in the red zone after the Falcons scored just one touchdown in four red-zone trips last week. It's unclear how long the starters will be in the game, but Matt Ryan seems content with the rhythm he has with his receivers right now. So it wouldn't be a shock to see him take a few shots in the end zone, especially if Julio Jones gets some action, as expected. The line has to block better in any goal-line situation, too. Jacquizz Rodgers essentially scored on his own last week.

3. Backup plan: If there's no clear-cut favorite between T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree for the backup role at this point, then one of them has a chance to establish a little separation Saturday. Last week, Yates was the first to enter the game behind Ryan. This week, Smith said not to read too much into which backup enters the game first. Yates, who was traded to Atlanta from Houston, seems likely to be more comfortable playing in familiar surroundings. But he's still getting familiar with the playbook and the inexperienced receivers he has to work alongside. Renfree is a sharp guy and has had his moments in practice. Smith wants the No. 2 situation resolved by the third preseason game.

W2W4: Houston Texans

August, 16, 2014
8/16/14
12:00
PM ET
The Houston Texans (0-1) host the Atlanta Falcons (1-0) in the Texans' home preseason opener Saturday night at NRG Stadium.

Three things to watch
  • The backup quarterback battle will continue this week. Though our ears all perked up at Case Keenum's first-team reps in practice on Thursday, I've heard some things this week that lead me to believe not to read too much into that. Supporting that view is the fact Texans' coach Bill O'Brien said Keenum won't get any first-team reps tonight against the Falcons. O'Brien hasn't wavered from Fitzpatrick as the starter. He and rookie Tom Savage are competing to be the team's backup. There was barely any time to evaluate offensive players last weekend against the Arizona Cardinals. The Texans only ran 41 offensive plays. Keenum threw five passes, completing three, and Savage threw three, completing two. The Texans will need to stay on the field longer for coaches to get a better idea of some of these battles.
  • Xavier Su'a-Filo took first-team reps at guard week during camp. He's still listed as Ben Jones' backup at left guard on the depth chart, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him in with the first team at right guard this year. It's an interesting situation in which the Texans find themselves. The man slated to be their starting right guard heading into the season, Brandon Brooks, is still on the non-football injury list with a back injury. Jones has plenty of playing experience and Su'a-Filo, as the first pick of the second round, was thought to be competing with Jones to be the starting left guard. He had a lot of catching up to do after missing the spring because of an NFL rule related to his college's schedule, but has been playing some tackle and center since returning. He's settling in at right guard now, though. "Xavier is trying to take advantage of all of the opportunities that he gets and he's learning on the run," O'Brien said. "The thing I really like about him is he's a really good guy, he’s a hard worker, he’s a smart player for a rookie and I believe if he continues on that road of working hard, being smart, working hard in the weight room and taking care of his body, that he’ll continue to improve and be a good player."
  • The Texans' defensive backfield will face an offense that will give them a good barometer on their own progress this week. They'll be looking for improvement over last week when the Cardinals' quarterbacks completed their first 10 passes. They completed 79.4 percent of their passes and had a combined passer rating of 138.8. In three consecutive weeks the Texans' secondary will face stiff challenges. Last week they saw Larry Fitzgerald. This week they have Roddy White and Julio Jones, though Falcons coach Mike Smith wouldn't confirm Jones will play tonight. Then, of course, next week they'll face Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos.

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