The San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans meet on Saturday night at NRG Stadium in Houston, as both teams kick off their preseason schedules. The game marks Jim Tomsula’s debut as head coach with San Francisco, while Bill O’Brien enters his second year and with George Godsey as the new offensive coordinator.
In his first season in charge, O’Brien didn’t use an offensive coordinator. Now Godsey, who played for O’Brien at Georgia Tech and was the quarterback coach in 2014, gets added responsibilities for an offense that finished 17th in total yards last season. It may be interesting to see how Godsey and O’Brien execute plays in their first game with Godsey’s new role.
The Texans welcome back most of their offensive line, but there are some questions about who they will be protecting. Brian Hoyer is expected to have an edge on Ryan Mallet, but it’s still up in the air as to who O’Brien and Godsey choose when the Texans face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 13. How both quarterbacks perform on Saturday might provide a glimpse into who becomes the eventual starter.
Houston used their first two draft picks on bolstering the defense. High expectations surround cornerback Kevin Johnson, and the Texans traded up for Benardrick McKinney. Both players will be spotlighted in their debuts.
For the 49ers, special attention may be paid to the tight end position. Vernon Davis is the obvious starter, but there are several candidates who may serve as the veteran Pro Bowler’s backup. San Francisco drafted 10 players in the 2015 NFL Draft, and picked Blake Bell in the fourth round and Rory Anderson as their final pick in the seventh round. Meanwhile, Xavier Grimble, who bounced around three teams in 2014, could be ready to make the team and be a top reserve target for Colin Kaepernick.
Three-time Pro Bowler NaVorro Bowman, who underwent knee surgery in February, is not expected to play. The middle linebacker has claimed that he is ready to play but is still deciding how long he wants to be on the field. Rookie Eli Harold, who has quickly made an impression on the coaching staff, is expected to play a larger role after the departure of Aldon Smith.
Behind the linebackers are a deep group of defensive backs, but there are questions over who gets the starting nod. Reports have stated that Shareece Wright and Tramaine Brock are the favorites, but there are several others who might get a chance to prove themselves in the preseason. The Niners used their second-round pick on safety Jaquiski Tartt and he should see plenty of action against the Texans.
Start Time: 8 pm ET
TV Channel: In San Francisco, the game will be shown on KPIX CBS 5; In Houston, the game will be shown on KTRK ABC 13
Betting Line: Texans by 3 points
Over/Under: 35.5 points