Texans, Broncos looking for answers

Originally Published: August 26, 2004
Associated Press

DENVER -- The Denver Broncos have struggled through three preseason games, unable to get much going on offense.

The Houston Texans were blown out last week after an impressive win in the opener.

Both teams have cause for concern, but it can all go away with one game.

With a game plan in place for the first time this season and the starters expected to play at least half the game, Friday night's contest should go a long way toward helping the Texans and Broncos figure out if they are really that far off.

"Whatever happens, hopefully we can be effective and get something out of it," Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer said. "It'll be good to get into the mind-set of game planning and getting ready for the regular season."

Denver's biggest problem has been offense.

The defense, behind new acquisitions Champ Bailey and John Lynch, has been as good as advertised, helping Denver stay close in its three preseason games.

The first-team offense has been worse than expected, failing to score a touchdown and managing just 12 points in 11 preseason series.

The Broncos started to move the ball a little better last week in a 19-3 win over Seattle, Denver's first victory of the preseason, but there's still a ways to go.

The Texans are wondering which version of their is going to show up on Friday.

Houston opened the season with an impressive 19-0 victory over Dallas, then squashed any momentum with a disheartening 38-3 loss to Pittsburgh last week.

"As a unit, we went out there and pretty much laid an egg," defensive end Corey Sears said. "We've been making our corrections and getting ready for this week to see what we can do."

Of course, it's not going to get any easier with the number of players who won't be available against the Broncos.

Andre Johnson, Houston's leading receiver as a rookie last season, won't make the trip because of a death in the family. Defensive tackle Seth Payne isn't expected to play because of a knee injury and defensive end Gary Walker is out with a strained groin.

Houston at least will get to see running back Domanick Davis in game action.

The team's leading rusher as a rookie last season hasn't played in the preseason because of an ankle injury, but he returned to practice and is expected to play against the Broncos.

"I just want to get out there and help my team out," Davis said. "Just seeing them when we're down, I'm not part of it. I just want to help."

While the Texans will get their first look at Davis this preseason, the Broncos will be trying to figure out which running back will be the starter when the regular season rolls around.

Second-year back Quentin Griffin, Clinton Portis' backup last year, has been the starter throughout the preseason, but it's a tight race.

Mike Anderson is slimmed down and seems to have regained the quickness he had as the NFL's offensive rookie of the year in 2000. Garrison Hearst has looked good and has been asking for more playing time, and speedy rookie Tatum Bell will play for the first time after missing the first three games with a broken finger.

At least the Broncos have two more games to figure it out. After playing in the Hall of Fame game, the NFL's preseason opener, Denver has five preseason games this year instead of the typical four.

"We will get a chance to evaluate players with two games left," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "A lot to evaluate, so it's always nice to have that extra game."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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