Offense struggles in Savage’s final warm-up
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.
Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) cuts back across the block by Willie Snead (83) on Texans safety Corey Moore (43).