So recapping preseason games is a lot like writing a literary review of a technical manual. It's usually pointless. So this is more of a big picture, where do they stand look. Yes, preseason is completely meaningless in terms of results, but it does mean a lot to the bottom of the roster guys, and those decisions are coming this week. Some things we've learned:
1) The first team offense is still a work in progress. Ryan Fitzpatrick has done what he has his entire career -- shown flashes, and made critical mistakes. He has run the spectrum this preseason, but in fairness did not have Andre Johnson until last night's game and hasn't had Arian Foster at all. We simply don't know what to expect once the full unit is on the field for an entire game. There should be cause for concern in some of the decisions Fitzpatrick makes in distributing the football; some of those will be interceptions in real games.
2) D.J. Swearinger is something the Texans haven't had since Bernard Pollard; a bleep-stirrer, even getting in Peyton Manning's head. He's also drawn the attention of the refs and gotten some flags that might have been borderline. He needs to be better in coverage and cut down the penalties, but the big hits and trash talk can put a player off his game. Swearinger just needs to back that up.
3) I would like to see Ricardo Mathews make this team. He has been an impact player in practices and again Saturday night.
4) Brian Cushing, Andre Johnson and Brandon Brooks all returned to the lineup. Cushing looked rusty at first but quickly found his stride after. Johnson, too, was rusty but also made some plays. If Brooks is over his reportedly weight-related issues, he could be a real asset. He is the only one who should see action Thursday night.
5) Whitney Mercilus has not been very good this offseason, but he showed up on the stat sheet with 7 tackles against the Broncos. This is a big year for Mercilus, who thus far is looking like a first-round bust.
6) There is a lot of hand wringing about the secondary this preseason. Frankly, people are too concerned at this point. They have been extremely vanilla in coverages, and will show much more once the real games start. Plus a healthy Jonathan Joseph will be a big factor. You should also see more pressure up front with J.J. Watt and Jadaveon Clowney playing full games. There simply isn't a reason to panic just yet.
7) The special teams coverage has been surprisingly good. Again, it has little bearing on how they will fare once the season starts, but it is nice to see improvement in an area that was a disaster in 2013. Then again, what wasn't a disaster last year?
8) I was hoping Chris Boswell would beat out Randy Bullock at kicker. Boswell has a monster leg and is versatile, also being able to punt. His onsides kick against UH last year was a thing of beauty. But Bullock appears to be holding him off. Points will be at a premium for this offense so the Texans need consistency there. Wouldn't be surprised to see Boswell on the practice squad and eventually kicking for this team.
9) The light might finally be coming on for Brandon Harris, and it is about time. He was a disaster the first preseason game (as he has been his entire career), but has finally shown flashes the past two weeks. He still gets beat too much and penalized too much (although last night's was a borderline call at best) but he has also made some plays. If he can develop, it would be a huge boost to the defense.
10) Give the coaching staff some credit. After an opener against the Cardinals where the Texans looked like a bad high school team, adjustments were made. The penalties were manageable last night (down to five after 28 combined the first two weeks. It remains to be seen how things will translate to the regular season, but we've seen progress, which is a real positive.
In the end, none of this matters too much. Everyone over analyzes preseason because it's all we have right now. It will soon be forgotten once the Texans take the field against the Redskins. But there are some trends that augur well for a team that couldn't get out of its own way last season. Cuts are coming, and expect the Texans to be buyers in the waiver wire market. Players at the bottom of the roster should not get too comfortable. There should be some help out there.
And the best news? The real games are just two weeks away. We'll learn a lot more about this team then.