Tonight's preseason finale will feature a host of Texans players we don't know about. I spoke with Brett Kollman from SB Nation's Texans site, Battle Red Blog, to get some more insight into the unknown players, as well as what to expect from the Texans across the board. You can check out my answers to his questions HERE.
Niners Nation: What kind of snaps can we expect from Texans starters? Aside from Ryan Fitzpatrick, is anybody else not starting?
Battle Red Blog: Bill O'Brien, as with all things, has been keeping who starts and who sits pretty close to the vest until just before games kick off. The Texans have been extremely conservative with their starters so far in preseason, particularly with star players. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney have only been on the field together for a handful of snaps, and that was three whole weeks ago. Considering that Carson Palmer had virtually no pocket in those very few snaps, however, I'm sure that the Texans saw all they needed to see. Ryan Fitzpatrick has played a bit more than most other offensive starters, but a lot of that can be attributed to O'Brien wanting to give him more situational work than the other quarterbacks. For the purposes of this game, history (so far) tells us that few if any starters will touch the field.
NN: Given last season's outcome, what are expectations like for Texans fans?
BRB: Surprisingly high, for the most part. Some believe that this is still a 6-10 team at best because of the quarterback situation, while others like myself are thinking more along the lines of 9-7 or 10-6 on the back of a ludicrously dominant defense and run game. 49er faithful should be familiar with the physical, suffocating style of football that should be coming from Houston this season. The Texans motto might as well be "if we can't score points, neither can anyone else."
NN: Is there a second year player the team is looking to emerge?
BRB: The 2013 draft has been an unmitigated disaster for the Texans so far outside of DeAndre Hopkins, D.J. Swearinger, and Ryan Griffin, who are the only members of that draft class that are still on the active roster. Hopkins is a prime candidate to have a huge second year leap, and I would not be shocked to see him lead the Texans in receiving during the early part of the season while Andre Johnson still gets used to the offense. His route running is impeccable, hands supreme, and he has the work ethic of a future super star. For a more detailed look at Hopkins' development under Johnson, check out my piece from this summer detailing the work they did against Seattle's vaunted secondary.
BRB: This rookie class has the potential to be something truly special. Jadeveon Clowney has been damn near better than advertised thus far, which makes this draft a win all by itself. Second round pick Xavier Su'a-Filo has had struggles in pass protection, but has brought some nastiness to the run game that I love to see. Third round tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, also known as "The Polish Hat", has been a star so far this new Texans offense. I dare say he has already surpassed Garrett Graham as the team's best tight end. Fantasy football players, especially those in dynasty leagues, should start stashing him immediately.
As for the middle and late rounds of the draft, Louis Nix is still coming back from off season knee surgery. He should be healthy sooner rather than later. Tom Savage has been inconsistent, but boy can he throw a football. I was very impressed by his game winning drive against Denver in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter; Bill O'Brien might just have something here. Jay Prosch has been a hammer at fullback, and seventh round pick Andre Hal has made some great plays at cornerback. All in all, the 2014 Texans draft class is looking like a franchise-defining group three games into their careers.
NN: Who are a couple deep roster guys 49ers fans should keep an eye on after the starters depart?
BRB: Andre Hal jumps to the forefront for me. Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, and A.J. Bouye are the team's top three cornerbacks, but I absolutely adored Hal coming out of Vanderbilt this year. On limited snaps against Atlanta, Hal finished with three passes defensed, one interception, one touchdown, and three great plays as a gunner on special teams. In the event that he inexplicably does not make the roster, I would immediately suggest that you all call up the 49ers front office and demand that they pick him up off waivers. Mark my words, Andre Hal is going to be a good corner in this league. I am sure of it.