Of­fense strug­gles in Sav­age’s fi­nal warm-up

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - SAINTS 13, TEXANS 0 -

NEW OR­LEANS — Tex­ans quar­ter­back Tom Sav­age’s eyes darted to his left, his right and over the mid­dle, scan­ning the field quickly.

Sav­age was in a se­ri­ous hurry Satur­day night against the New Or­leans Saints — a sit­u­a­tion ex­ac­er­bated by an un­der­manned of­fen­sive line that strug­gled to pro­vide him with suf­fi­cient time to lo­cate his tar­gets down­field.

Play­ing with­out Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown, who is in­volved in a con­tract dis­pute, the Tex­ans had trou­ble gen­er­at­ing points or mov­ing the foot­ball with their first-team of­fense.

While Sav­age avoided turnovers and didn’t make any glar­ing mis­takes dur­ing a score­less first half, he held the foot­ball too long at times, con­sid­er­ing the amount of heat the Saints’ de­fen­sive line was ap­ply­ing.

Sav­age com­pleted seven of 10 passes for 79 yards, no touch­downs and no in­ter­cep­tions for a 74.7 passer rat­ing. A se­ries of drives led by Sav­age ended with punts by Shane Lech­ler be­fore Sav­age was re­placed in the sec­ond quar­ter by rookie backup De­shaun Wat­son.

It wasn’t a ster­ling per­for­mance by Sav­age, but it was im­pacted by a fairly vanilla game plan for the pre­sea­son along with sev­eral in­juries on of­fense. The Tex­ans’ start­ing wide re­ceivers were Dres Anderson and Bruce Elling­ton with De­An­dre Hop­kins (hand), Brax­ton Miller (an­kle) and Will Fuller (bro­ken col­lar­bone) all side­lined.

Sav­age likely won’t play again un­til the Tex­ans’ sea­son opener against Jack­sonville on Sept. 10 at NRG Sta­dium be­cause starters don’t tra­di­tion­ally play in the fi­nal pre­sea­son game.

The 6-4, 228-pound pocket passer from Pittsburgh so­lid­i­fied his grip on the start­ing job with a steady, mis­take-free, al­beit un­spec­tac­u­lar three pre­sea­son games.

He fin­ished the pre­sea­son 27-of-36 pass­ing for 255 yards, one touch­down and no in­ter­cep­tions.

Sav­age has es­tab­lished that he can man­age games and avoid turnovers. It will be in­struc­tive to see how the of­fense looks when or if the re­ceivers and tight end C.J. Fiedorow­icz (quadri­ceps) get back on the field as well as if Brown de­cides to re­port in time for the start of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

It was a light night for Clowney, Watt

Jade­veon Clowney re­joined J.J. Watt on the field against the Saints as the Tex­ans’ ul­tra­dan­ger­ous pass-rush­ing tan­dem got their fi­nal work of the pre­sea­son.

It didn’t last long as the Tex­ans’ Pro Bowl book­ends made only a cameo ap­pear­ance in the third pre­sea­son game.

Clowney and Watt played just four snaps be­fore leav­ing the game, their work done for the night. Nei­ther de­fen­sive stand­out reg­is­tered any de­fen­sive statistics.

In limited ac­tion, Clowney got eluded by speedy Saints wide re­ceiver Ted Ginn Jr. on an end-around that was called back be­cause of a block in the back. Clowney missed the Tex­ans’ sec­ond pre­sea­son game against New Eng­land, re­turn­ing to prac­tice Thurs­day af­ter deal­ing with leg sore­ness for roughly two weeks.

Watt donned a base­ball cap on the side­lines af­ter leav­ing the game with­out hardly break­ing a sweat.

The three-time NFL De­fen­sive Player of the Year emerged un­scathed from the pre­sea­son, hav­ing made a sound re­cov­ery from a pair of mi­crodis­ce­tomy surg­eries last year to re­pair a her­ni­ated disk.

Anderson builds on rookie suc­cess

Stephen Anderson carved out a niche as a rookie in a hy­brid role as a tight end who fre­quently flexed out­side in an H-back role.

Anderson, who had one catch for 14 yards Satur­day, made the ros­ter as an un­drafted rookie, and the con­verted wide re­ceiver from Cal­i­for­nia caught 11 passes for 93 yards and a touch­down.

Anderson (6-3, 230) has 4.58 speed in the 40-yard dash. That al­lows him to cre­ate sep­a­ra­tion from slower lineback­ers and de­fen­sive backs

Now, Anderson is hop­ing to build on his rookie suc­cess.

“I feel a lot more con­fi­dent in my abil­i­ties,” said Anderson, a former hon­or­able-men­tion Al­lPac 12 se­lec­tion who caught 87 passes for 1,135 yards and seven touch­down in his fi­nal two col­lege sea­sons. “I un­der­stand the of­fense a lot bet­ter. It’s a lot more com­pli­cated when you’re a rookie, ab­so­lutely.

“In your sec­ond year, you know the routes. I feel a lot bet­ter. You know what ques­tions to ask. You al­ways try to get bet­ter ev­ery sin­gle day.”

O’Brien praises Walker’s tough­ness

Tex­ans of­fen­sive guard Josh Walker is bat­tling Chad Slade for one of the fi­nal ros­ter spots.

At 6-5 and 330 pounds, Walker is a big, strong, phys­i­cal line­man.

The Tex­ans pro­moted Walker to the ac­tive ros­ter from their prac­tice squad last year. Walker wound up play­ing in two games, hav­ing made a full re­cov­ery from a sprained me­dial col­lat­eral lig­a­ment he dealt with dur­ing a pre­vi­ous stint with Green Bay.

The Tex­ans like Walker’s ag­gres­sive na­ture and have seen steady progress from him in the former Mid­dle Ten­nessee stand­out in his sec­ond sea­son in Hous­ton.

“Josh Walker’s do­ing a good job,” Tex­ans coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s a tough guy. He’s im­proved. He prac­tices ev­ery day. He’s out here ev­ery day, work­ing hard to get bet­ter. He’s had a de­cent camp.”

Weather in Hous­ton forces team to Dal­las

The Tex­ans were plan­ning to fly to Dal­las af­ter Satur­day night’s game be­cause of the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing weather con­di­tions in Hous­ton — a re­sult of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

“Mother Na­ture is un­de­feated,” O’Brien said. “Our plane is prob­a­bly head­ing to Dal­las. That’s the only thing I know.”

The Tex­ans are sched­uled to play the Cow­boys on Thurs­day at NRG Sta­dium in the fi­nal pre­sea­son game.

On Fri­day, the Cow­boys of­fered to host the game at AT&T Sta­dium if con­di­tions in Hous­ton were un­fa­vor­able.

The NFL will make the call to re­lo­cate the game.

But for now, it ap­pears the Tex­ans will go to Dal­las, at least for a night, and per­haps work out at the Cow­boys’ train­ing fa­cil­ity in Frisco as well.

Brett Coomer / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

Saints run­ning back Mark In­gram (22) cuts back across the block by Willie Snead (83) on Tex­ans safety Corey Moore (43).

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