Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 8/11/12

Coming off the best season in franchise history the Houston Texans open up their preseason against the Carolina Panthers this weekend. After making the playoffs and winning a game they look to build off the success of last year. Here are somethings to watch for during the game.

After trading Pro Bowl LB Demeco Ryans this offseason the Texans are now in a tough spot in terms of depth at the middle linebacker position. Normal starter Brian Cushing is out do to a virus which hospitalized him earlier this week. With injuries to Daryl Sharpton and Kearyan Fox the team was forced to sign Omar Gaither earlier in the week to fill the need. Now we’ll see how they handle it during the game though. More than likely we’ll see many players rotate through the game as they attempt to see who can step up and fill in the glaring hole left with Cushing and others sitting out.

Andre Johnson will also sit this one out. But rookie WR Keyshawn Martin has looked good all camp and is the obvious choice for the third receiver spot. He’ll battle fellow rookie Devier Posey and second year player Lestar Jean for regular season reps. Though Bryant Johnson is on the roster I believe it’s to boost competition and try to push the younger players.

JJ Watt dislocated he on ths elbow last week so he’ll be resting for the game as well. Look for fourth round pick Jared Crick to show us somuoick but gell after injury hurt hi stovk. Crick is the same mold as Watt, big, athleyltic, and quick. He could make a statementething. He was once considered a first round pick, but fell to the fourth because of injury late in his college career. With Watt out we’ll also see some of Earl Mitchell. A name we should hear a lot of during the preseason as he battles for playing time with veteran NT Shaun Cody.

With the departure of Jacoby Jones to Baltimore comes an opening in the punt return game for the Texans. Trindon Holliday is a name to remember here, drafted as aspecial teams player namely to return punts and kickoffs he hasn’t gotten much of a chance because of vets like Jones and safety Daniel Manning. Also remember former Seahawk speed deamon Justin Forsett was signed during the off season. He’s also battling for the spot of number one punt returner on the depth chart.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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