Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 8/12/12

The starters may have only played less than the first quarter, but there was plenty excitement during Saturday’s preseason opening win for the Houston Texans over the Carolina Panthers. The first team guys did get some solid work in, while the second and third units played outstanding to lead the way in the 26-13 victory. Special teams also had an impact as the team’s smallest player made arguably the biggest play of the night.

One of the biggest headlines leading up to last night’s game was the return of QB Matt Schaub. Showing no lingering signs of injury (as he hasn’t throughout camp), Schaub did display a bit of rust, going 3/6 for 52 yards, no TDs, and one INT. The Texans didn’t ask Schaub to do much last night, but overall he seemed to handle the live game situations well, which included a nice 22-yard strike to TE Owen Daniels. 

The first team offense seemed to be decent but a little out of sync as they had no trouble moving the ball, but stalled inside the 10 and had to settle for a field goal on the first drive, then turned the ball over twice with the Schaub INT and an Arian Foster fumble on his only carry of the night (11 yard gain). 

The story early on was the defense and the special teams. The D opened up the game with two straight three and outs, powered by a contained rush on Panthers QB Cam Newton that resulted in one sack and several pressures that threw the reigning NFL Rookie of the Year out of sorts. 

The third (and final) possession for the Panthers starters did see them begin to move the ball as the defense lost contain on Newton and let up a field goal to tie the game at 3. But in the blink of an eye, 5’5” WR Trindon Holliday took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for the game’s first touchdown. 

The starters for both teams were finished by this point. The Texans closed out the first half with a stellar drive offensively that again stalled within the 10 and resulted in a field goal. The Panthers put together a late scoring drive in the first half to tie the game at 13 heading into the break. 

The second half belong to the Texans, outscoring the Panthers 13-0 to arrive at the final score of 26-13. The noticeable takeaway from the second half was how deep the Texans roster is. While the Panthers showed a big drop off as they rotated in players, the Texans kept their play at a consistent high level. 

As we all know, the preseason isn’t about final scores but more about individual players fighting for roster spots and regular season playing time. So who stood out last night? We already mentioned Holliday, who had several big returns in addition to the TD. Offensively, the offensive lines looked solid, especially the second unit who controlled the line of scrimmage for much of the final three quarters. RB Ben Tate looked explosive finding the running lanes and hitting the hole hard to the tune of seven carries for 38 yards in limited first quarter action. The trio of Justin Forsett, Jonathan Grimes, and Davin Meggett collectively carried the ball 24 times for 98 yards and a 3-yard TD for Grimes.

The wide receivers have been a constant topic of discussion throughout the preseason and with Andre Johnson inactivated just before kickoff, it gave the young group of wide outs a chance for extra playing time. As has been the case for most of training camp, Keshawn Martin impressed and looked in sync with both Schaub and backup QB T.J. Yates, finishing with two catches for 24 yards. Lestar Jean, another contender for serious reps during the regular season, hauled in two passes for 50 yards that included a big 29-yard reception. TE Garrett Graham, who pulled down a team high three catches for 44 yards, appears ready to step up and fill the void left by Joel Dreessen. 

Defensively, everybody from the first unit stood out as impressive during their three series. The standouts (because of their lower expectations) were CB Kareem Jackson and OLB Whitney Mercilus. Jackson was excellent in coverage, which included several pass breakups as the Panthers challenged him early down the field. In his first NFL game action, Mercilus lived up to the first-round hype by recording a sack and a half. 

When the second defensive unit too the field, ILB Tim Dobbins was all over the field, finishing the game with five tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 other tackles for a loss. The linebackers in particular were solid, frequently playing in the Panther backfield. This group included Bryan Braman, Jesse Nading, and D.J. Bryant. And finally, FS Troy Nolan recorded the Texans’ lone interception.

Regarding the kicker competition, both Shayne Graham and Randy Bullock went 2/2 on their field goal attempts with Graham adding two extra points. 

As I’ve stated numerous times, it’s just the preseason. Nobody should take much stock in the 26-13 final score or even that the Texans seemingly played better than the Panthers. The Texans looked good at times, but certainly have a lot of work to do. The team will resume training camp practices this upcoming week. The coaching staff will continue evaluating players as the inevitable cuts loom. The Texans take the preseason field again this coming Saturday at home against the San Francisco 49ers. 

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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