HOUSTON—Houston coach Gary Kubiak said Saturday’s win over San Francisco had a regular-season feel and offered a helpful gauge of where the Texans stand three weeks before the games count.
Kubiak liked most of what he saw in the Texans’ 20-9 victory—the continuing improvement of receiver Lestar Jean, developing depth on the right side of the offensive line and sharpness from quarterback Matt Schaub and star receiver Andre Johnson.
But the second-team offense sputtered and the 49ers broke off a handful of first-down runs, new areas of concern for Kubiak.
“It is the preseason,” Kubiak said Sunday, “but that was a very real picture for us, as a team, of where we’re headed and where we have to be here in a couple of weeks.”
Linebacker Brian Cushing bruised his ribs in the game, but Kubiak said the rest of the Texans came out of the game without injury. Kubiak is hoping nose tackle Shaun Cody (back) and defensive end J.J. Watt (dislocated elbow) can return to practice this week.
Houston (No. 6 in the AP Pro32) plays at New Orleans (No. 9) on Saturday, and Kubiak plans to play his starters about three quarters.
Watt, a first-round draft pick, had 5 ½ sacks and two fumble recoveries during his rookie regular season, then provided the signature moment of the Texans’ season when he returned an interception for a touchdown in Houston’s 31-10 rout of Cincinnati in the playoffs. Watt hurt his elbow early in training camp, and Kubiak said Watt is “very close” to returning to work.
Cody hurt his back in Houston’s preseason opener against Carolina, and Kubiak said Cody will run on Monday, though he cautioned that he’s still “day to day.”
Schaub and Johnson, who both missed much of last season with injuries, looked to be in midseason form in the first half on Saturday.
Schaub completed 11 of 14 passes for 128 yards, including a 43-yard hookup to Johnson, who fended off two defenders to make the catch.
Johnson sat out the first week of training camp with a mild groin strain, and Kubiak is happy to see the two regain their chemistry so quickly.
“They’ve practiced really good the last 8-10 days,” Kubiak said. “Andre missed the time and had been rusty, and you could see them in practice coming together a little bit. That’s very important, because that gives confidence to our whole offense.”
Jean caught a short TD pass from Schaub, one of his four catches. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Jean came to Houston as an undrafted free agent last year and spent the season on injured reserve with a left shoulder injury. He’s emerged as the frontrunner for the No. 3 receiver slot, with six catches for 92 yards in two preseason games.
“All the skill is there,” Kubiak said. “I don’t think he just has chance to be a good player, he has a chance to be a really good player. That’s what we’re pushing him toward.”
Rookie Keshawn Martin, a fourth-round draft pick, has five catches for 60 yards in the preseason as he also vies for the No. 3 spot. Kubiak regretted not calling more plays for rookie DeVier Posey, a third-round draft pick, who’s fallen off the pace in the competition.
Posey was suspended 10 games during his senior season at Ohio State for taking improper benefits. He still finished his college career ranked seventh in school history in receptions (136) and TD catches (18) and eighth in yards receiving (1,955), but the suspension may be costing him now.
“I wish I would’ve gotten DeVier a little bit more, but those other two guys are playing extremely well,” Kubiak said. “I would not say that DeVier is not doing the same things. I just think it has taken him a little bit more time to get going with the offense. He did miss a year of football in a lot of ways last year, but his ability shows up. He will get plenty of time before this preseason is over.”
Houston ranked fourth in run defense (96 yards per game) and held nine opponents below 100 yards rushing last season. The 49ers finished with 118 yards rushing, and Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick all had runs of more than 10 yards.
“I don’t think we stopped the run the way we need to stop the run,” Kubiak said. “We could tackle better than we tackled. They are a good, physical team. A lot of third down runs on us, so that’s something we’ve got to shore up.”
Kubiak is still evaluating the competitions at right tackle and right guard. Derek Newton, a seventh-round pick in 2011, started in place of Rashad Butler at the tackle spot, and Kubiak said both played well against the 49ers. Antoine Caldwell was solid again at the guard spot, Kubiak said, as he tries to fend off rookie Brandon Brooks for the starting job.