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It’s an increasingly common way to prepare for the regular season, giving teams a chance to see new looks in practice and hit players that aren’t teammates. While some of the sessions devolve into brawls, the Saints and Texans reportedly avoided any kind of serious conflicts.
Instead, the problem for both teams has been getting through camp healthy. On Thursday alone, three Saints — cornerbacks Delvin Breaux and P.J. Williams and offensive tackle Zach Strief — were carted back to the locker room.
The Texans are trying to get back to 100 percent, particularly along the defensive line. J.J. Watt underwent back surgery in the offseason that could cost him time in the regular season, so he certainly won’t be seen in the game on Saturday night. But an appearance from Jadeveon Clowney appears likely.
Clowney entered the league with monumental hype after he was selected No. 1 in the 2014 NFL Draft, but after two injury-riddled seasons, he has just 4.5 sacks to his name. Just last week, Clowney didn’t travel to the Texans’ preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers and stirred up a little drama when he was photographed at a Louisiana casino instead.
But his first two disappointing years will be worth the wait if Clowney eventually reaches his full potential and that starts with his 2016 debut on Saturday against the Saints.
Making a play against Terron Armstead isn’t an easy task, though. He’s one of the best young offensive linemen in the NFL, although the rest of the Saints line is worth keeping an eye on in preseason. The team’s first-round pick in 2015, Andrus Peat, is currently slated at right guard, an interesting transition for a 6’7 lineman, and will likely start next to Strief, who reportedly dealt with cramps in practice.
But nothing is more important for the Saints than fixing the defense. No team allowed more points in 2015 and the team’s first-round pick this year, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, is out with a broken leg.
That makes for an appetizing opportunity for the new-look Texans offense. After adding Brock Osweiler, Will Fuller and Braxton Miller in the offseason, Houston is hoping to finally have some stability at quarterback and give Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins something to work with.
The Texans’ offense didn’t score against the 49ers at all last week until the second half (the Houston defense scored on a fumble return in the first quarter), but scoring against the New Orleans defense should come easier. If it doesn’t, it’d be a good sign for the Saints’ progress on the defensive side of the ball and a potential red flag for the retooled Houston offense.
How to watch
When: 8 p.m. ET
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
TV: FOX 8 (New Orleans), ABC 13 (Houston)
Announcers: Joel Meyers, Sean Kelley, John Stinchcomb (Saints); John Sadak, Spencer Tillman (Texans)
Online: NFL Game Pass