This week at Dove Valley we’ll see two teams line up to practice against each other. The Denver Broncos have invited the Houston Texans into the facility to hold joint practices this week before their Week 3 preseason game on Saturday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. So what will the Broncos learn by going up against the Texans in practice? Let’s first take a look at what the Broncos defense will be up against.
Texans Quarterbacks The Texans have arguably the worst collection of quarterbacks in the NFL. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter, and the “Ahmish Rifleman” is known for a careless gunslinger style that can get him in trouble. Behind Fitzpatrick is third-year pro Case Keenum. He lacks the arm strength to challenge every spot on the field, but he’s athletic and can make plays on the run. The Texans third-string quarterback is rookie Tom Savage. Before the draft there were some (laughingly) projecting him as a first-round pick. Savage has a rocket arm, but his poise and accuracy leave a lot to be desired. Those are a few reasons why he fell to the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Texans Running Backs Arian Foster is one of the best backs in the game today—when healthy. The staying healthy part has been difficult for Foster at various points in his pro career. Foster played in only eight games last season, and he’s already banged up this year. A hamstring injury has slowed down Foster this training camp and preseason. His status for the week of practice against the Broncos is unknown, but Texans head coach Bill O’Brien has previously stated that Foster is close to practicing fully. Behind Foster is a collection of running backs that range in selection from first-round pick to late-round pick to undrafted free agent. The team recently agreed to terms with former first-round pick (2005) Ronnie Brown and undrafted free agent (2011) William Powell. Brown is not the same player he used to be, and he’s just trying to hold on at the end of his career. Powell is a swift returner who can contribute as a runner or receiver out of the backfield. Alfred Blue is a rookie out of LSU who the Texans selected in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL draft. He’s an upright runner who can glide quickly downfield. His size makes him easier to bring down, and Blue is not the banger between the tackles that some think. Jonathan Grimes is a more compact runner who had success against the Broncos last year. In week 16 last year against Denver, Grimes showed what he is capable of with 16 carries for 50 yards rushing and one touchdown. He also added six catches for 76 yards. Grimes may be the best candidate to backup Foster this year.
Texans Wide Receivers The quarterback position will hold down the production of the Texans wide receivers. The two main players here are Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. Johnson is a seasoned veteran who can still be one of the best in the game at his position. He has size, speed and the “my ball” mentality to be a dangerous weapon. Johnson was frustrated with the direction of the passing game this offseason, and he was holding out in hopes of getting traded. That still might be a possibility, but for now Johnson remains with the Texans. Like Johnson, Hopkins was also frustrated with this offense earlier this offseason. Hopkins has amazing speed and body control which help him work the sidelines and deep routes. He can be a dominant player in the NFL, but we’ll see him struggle to play up to expectations unless the quarterback situation gets an unexpected change. Behind Johnson and Hopkins, the Texans have guys like Keshawn Martin (KR/PR), Devier Posey, Mike Thomas (KR/PR), and Alec Lemon. None are that dangerous with the football, and are borderline talents in the NFL.
Texans Tight Ends Long-time starter Owen Daniels followed former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak to the Baltimore Ravens. This leaves Garrett Graham as the starter. He’s a savvy route runner who knows how to use his frame to “box out” smaller defenders. Graham is not an elite move tight end, but he can work underneath routes and be somewhat of a threat in the red zone. The only other tight end to monitor on the Texans is rookie C.J. Fiedorowicz. He’s a big-bodied rookie from Iowa who can blot out defenders as a blocker. As you can see, the Broncos may not face a huge challenge from this Texans offense. It will be interesting to see what kind of production this unit can have against a revamped Broncos defense.