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August 10, 2008
Green Injured in Another Fake Win

by Keith Weiland

The Texans won their opening preseason game of the 2008 season, defeating the team's northern campus rivals from Denver 19-16. The victory gave head coach Gary Kubiak his sixth victory in nine preseason games, but since who wins these things is meaningless, the real story here is who got hurt.

Ahman Green lasted exactly ONE ENTIRE PLAY into the preseason before leaving with what appeared to be an injured groin. The elderly running back, who missed ten games last season due to injury, entered camp still safely lodged as the team's best starting option.

No more.

I am certain he would prefer to be healthy and playing to pulling his groin on the sidelines, and it's not just because of the incentive in his contract to stay healthy during the regular season on a game-to-game basis. But as I opined a few weeks ago, any sort of injury suffered by Green before the real games begin could be deadly to his future as a Texan.

Aside from saving Bob McNair almost $4 million in salary and roster bonuses this year, cutting Green might open the door for his equally capable (and much younger) backups. Rookie Steve Slaton might have only played in garbage time Saturday night, but his speed impressed as he picked up 37 yards, including a nice 13-yard burst in scoring territory to set up the game-winning field goal.

Darius Walker and Chris Taylor might also prove to be able fill-ins for Green. Each appeared solid in their brief regular season appearances, Walker averaging 4.6 yards per carry late last season, and Taylor racking up more than 100 yards of offense and a score in his only game as a featured tailback.

But back to the last night's game. The starters only played briefly, yet satisfactorily. Kung Fu Panda didn't give up a sack in his pro debut. The most disappointing effort though came from quarterback Matt Schaub. With a third down from the Broncos' 5-yard line, he forced a pass intended for André Davis into double coverage, a ball that could have been easily intercepted.

Any idiotic pseudo-talk from others about a possible QB battle aside, Schaub is firmly entrenched as the starter. If there is one nagging concern from Schaub though, it is his ability to avoid mental errors in the redzone. And while the stat sheet might show bigger numbers for Sage Rosenfels (10-15, 137 yds, 1 TD) than Schaub (4-5, 29 yds, 0 TD), it doesn't necessarily mean Rosey was better. Rosenfels was off-target often, and he lacked much zip on his throws.

As for the defense, the starters allowed the Broncos to score on their second drive, mostly giving up short yardage throws before QB Jay Cutler scrambled for 15 yards into the endzone. The reserves performed well enough to prevent the Broncos' from getting another touchdown, but they were able to find room to run outside, averaging 4.7 yards per carry for the game.

Game Balls

Defensive end Mario Williams stood out, abusing rookie North Houston left tackle Ryan Clady early and often. Special kudos to safety Nick Ferguson, who maybe did little else but make a nice interception against his former team. That must have felt pretty good for him.

But my game ball goes to wide receiver David Anderson. He used his tiptoes to score the only touchdown for the Texans, and his other five receptions also bolstered hope that he may one day be the team's very own slot machine. All night long, he showed the same quickness and hands I saw in an earlier camp workout.

Key Stat

Texans running backs: 29 rushes, 85 yards, 0 touchdowns

So I said the Texans had capable runners behind Green, but this stat doesn't seem to bear that out. That output only represents a 2.9-yard per carry average, but I'm going to pin that ineffectiveness on the newness of the running game as a whole, not to mention the fact that the Broncos defense is already pretty familiar with stopping it in practice.

Running game coordinator Alex Gibbs is sure to find plenty of naughty words coaching opportunities in reviewing the game video. His offensive line will need to do a better job of opening cutback lanes for the backs.

Up Next

The Texans (1-0) take it to the road to face the Saints (1-0). Aside from our local intrigue continuing in watching the running offense develop, the obvious story line here will be Mario vs. Reggie II. Bush gained just 34 yards on 15 carries to help his team lose 23-10 last November. Williams notched a sack and forced fumble in the victory at home.

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