Opening up with a 18-0 defeat of the Dallas Cowboys, Houston looked tough, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Their second game however, was a completely different story, as the Texans gave up over 200-yards on the ground and four rushing touchdowns by four different Steeler running backs.
Their offense didn't fare much better, gaining only 54-yards rushing, 28 of which came on an end-around by receiver Kendrick Starling.
Head coach Dom Capers hopes to fare better this week with the addition of running back Dominick Davis, who missed the Texans' first two games with ankle injuries suffered during training camp.
"We had a normal game week practice schedule so we were able to get him the work we thought we needed to get him," Capers said Wednesday afternoon.
Davis' return could be a plus for Houston, but Capers admits that he will probably be used on only two or three series. Davis, the Texans fourth-round draft pick out of LSU last year, led all rookie running backs with 1,031 total rushing yards, setting sixteen different team records on his way to 1,381 total yards from scrimmage. Despite not starting until Week 6 of the 2003 season, Davis scored eight rushing touchdowns, ultimately earning NFL Rookie of the Year honors. His contribution to the Houston offense amounted to 44.5 percent of the teams' total offensive production.
While Davis returns to the lineup, several other Texans will be sidelined, choosing instead to remain in Houston to rehab various injuries.
Defensive tackle Seth Paynev (knee) will stay at home. Payne, who is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, has been practicing on a regular basis for about a week. Also remaining in Houston will be defensive end Gary Walker with an injured groin, linebacker Marcus Bell (strained shoulder), cornerback Vontez Duff (rotator cuff) and safety Glenn earl (knee).
Linebackers Jason Babin, Antwan Peek and offensive lineman Fred Weary all practiced this week, on a limited basis, and will be game time decisions. Running back Tony Hollings, who has started with the first team in Davis' absence, will play, but has been held out of contact drills this week with bruised ribs.
"Looking at the teams were playing I just felt it was better to wait until next week," Capers said of Payne. "He could play. Seth would like to play. But I think it's better to get him ready to play next week."
Capers said that Houston will plan on using it's starters the entire first half against the Broncos, perhaps into the third quarter, virtually the same plan that Mike Shanahan has for Denver.
Broncos vs. Houston (preseason)
Friday's game marks the second preseason meeting between the teams, with the Broncos holding a 1-0 advantage. Denver defeated the Texans 20-12 at Reliant Stadium to open the preseason last year. The teams have never met in the regular season, but are scheduled to play in Week 9 at Invesco Field on Nov. 7th.
As this marks the first visit by Houston to Invesco Field, head coach Dom Capers has done his best throughout the week to prepare his team for the adjustments they need to make for playing in the Mile High City. After coaching the Jacksonville Jaguars, Capers is well aware of the effect of playing at 5,280 feet has on players, both physically and mentally.
"As soon as you walked into that stadium, there was a sign in the locker room that said, ‘Welcome to Mile High Stadium, 5,280 feet above sea level."
That reminder will also be present when Capers and the Texans invade Invesco Field.
"They want you thinking about it the whole time you're there," Capers said about the altitude. "All home teams are always looking for any edge they can get. But they have a good stadium and good fans."
"I don't know if it's psychological or physiological."
HEAD COACH MATCHUP
2nd Year with Houston (9-23)
9th Year NFL Head Coach (40-58)
18th NFL Season
Shanahan (Head Coach)
10th Year as Broncos Head Coach (91-53)
12 th Year NFL Head Coach (99-65)
22nd NFL Season