In small sample size, Texans' Tom Savage impresses vs. Patriots

HOUSTON -- Tom Savage only played two series in Saturday's 27-23 victory over the New England Patriots, but in that short time, he showed why the Texans believe he can be their starting quarterback.

In nearly a quarter of work, Savage was 8-of-9 for 98 yards and a touchdown, and he led the Texans down the field on both series he played. He had a nearly perfect 149.1 passer rating. Houston coach Bill O'Brien named Savage the starting quarterback early in the offseason, and in three weeks of training camp and two preseason games, Savage has not given the Texans a reason that anything should change.

QB depth chart: In five preseason drives, Savage is 17-of-20 for 167 yards and a touchdown. He had a slow start in the preseason opener with two three-and-outs, but he impressed on the next three drives. Those three drives: a touchdown, stopped on fourth-and-6 from the 8 on a run and a two-yard touchdown run. The Texans scored touchdowns on two of his five drives. Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson was just 3-of-10 for 102 yards, with 63 of those yards coming on a catch-and-run by D'Onta Foreman. Watson did have a rushing touchdown for the second consecutive game. On second-and-goal, Watson escaped pressure before running up the middle for a 2-yard score. Brandon Weeden was 5-of-8 for six yards.

When it was starters vs. starters, the Texans looked ... like the offense has the potential to be better than last season. It was certainly a small sample size -- and a low bar to cross -- but Savage moved the ball well down the field. He did that without receivers DeAndre Hopkins, 2016 first-round pick Will Fuller (broken collarbone) and 2016 third-round pick Braxton Miller.

One reason to be concerned: The Patriots' running backs combined for nine catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns. The Texans' linebackers struggled covering running backs last season, including against New England. D.J. Foster led the group with four catches for 52 yards and a touchdown.

That guy could start: With the injury to Fuller, the Texans are looking for a wide receiver to start across from Hopkins. Jaelen Strong, who made a nice catch up the middle in the preseason opener, had two catches on two targets for 11 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown grab from Savage.

Rookie watch: Foreman had a 63-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter, breaking several tackles and almost getting into the end zone. He finished with seven carries for 17 yards and a touchdown, along with two catches for 66 yards. Second-round pick Zach Cunningham could not stay with Rex Burkhead in single coverage. The Patriots running back scored on a 22-yard reception, untouched by Cunningham. In the preseason opener, Cunningham had a team-high seven tackles.

J.J. Watt watch: For the second preseason game in a row, Watt only played the first defensive series. His tackle for loss was his first tackle in a game since he had back surgery almost a year ago. The Texans are trying to be smarter about Watt’s reps -- he has had several days off during training camp -- and O’Brien has made it clear the goal is to get him to Week 1 healthy.

Welcome to Houston: Bruce Ellington only signed with the Texans last week, but he made an impact in his first game. The wide receiver had four catches for 93 yards, including a 33-yard catch-and-run. He also made an acrobatic catch for a 37-yard gain. The Texans don’t have much depth at receiver without Hopkins, Fuller and Miller.

Injury report: The Texans did not announce any injuries during the game. Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and Hopkins did not play, although the Texans have not acknowledged injuries to either player. Hopkins has not practiced since he played in the Texans’ preseason opener Aug. 9.