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John DeShazier: Five things to watch in the Saints-Texans game

Texans should present strong challenge for Saints first-team units


1. Uncle Mo – The New Orleans Saints' first-team offense and defense hope to carry over momentum from the last preseason game, a 28-20 victory over Oakland in which the starters exited at halftime with a 23-7 lead. The offense scored on five consecutive possessions (three field goals and two touchdowns) and the defense rolled up five sacks while limiting the Raiders to 130 yards. And neither unit totally was satisfied – the offense, for not scoring more touchdowns and the defense, for allowing a touchdown drive right before halftime. The Texans, on the road, will present a good challenge for both units.

2. On the run – The running game remains a work in progress. The Saints aren't a team that has to run the ball 30-35 times per game but when they do run it, they need to run efficiently. And the ground game hasn't been much of a threat in the first two preseason games (2.9 yards per carry on 69 attempts). It's an area where the team has been effective in the most successful seasons under Coach Sean Payton (4.5, 4.0 and 4.9 yards per carry in 2009-11, when the Saints won 13, 11 and 13 games). So it's understood how important that facet of the offense is. The frontline offense will want to perform better in the run game against Houston to show it's heading in the right direction. [internal-link-placeholder-0]

3. Be special again – The special teams coverage units had a nice bounce-back game against the Raiders. After allowing 17.7 yards per punt return and 45.3 yards per kickoff return in the opener, they held Oakland to 12 yards on one punt return and a 23.4-yard average on five kickoff returns. Now, they have to show consistency and do it again, against the Texans.

4. Making room – A couple of young defensive linemen are making serious bids for roster spots. Defensive end Glenn Foster has three sacks in the first two preseason games, end Jay Richardson, who hasn't played an NFL game since 2010, has been impressive in his play (he has a fumble recovery) and end Tyrunn Walker also has been in the mix, with five tackles. Count them among the young players that Coach Sean Payton said are in the hunt for positions on the 53-man roster. Another good showing by the trio certainly won't hurt their prospects.

5. Backups to forefront – We saw against Oakland how effective linebackers Ramon Humber and David Hawthorne can be, when they started at inside linebacker in place of Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Vilma. Depending on how fast Vilma can recover from knee surgery, one will enter the season opener as a starter. If nothing else, both looked equal to the task against Oakland (in the first half, Humber had nine tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss and Hawthorne chipped in three tackles). They should receive a decent amount of work against the Texans, too, in their final heavy duty before the regular season.

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