HOU-DAL grades: Defenses stand out for both Texans, Cowboys

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Houston's preseason win over Dallas.

| 10 months ago
(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

HOU-DAL grades: Defenses stand out for both Texans, Cowboys

Houston Texans 28, Dallas Cowboys 17

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from Houston’s 28-17 preseason win in Dallas.

Houston Texans

Quarterback grades: Tom Savage, 73.9; Brandon Weeden, 51.4

With starter Brock Osweiler out with the rest of Houston’s starters, the Texans split time between Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden at quarterback, with Savage looking a bit more proficient in his 50 snaps. He was fairly conservative with the ball, only putting it at risk on a pair of downfield throws, and as expected, he was better when given a clean pocket (78.6 percent completion rate, 125.6 passer rating) than under pressure (39.6 passer rating). But Dallas’ rush only got to him on 21.1 percent of his dropbacks, the seventh-lowest rate among 46 quarterbacks that saw time on Thursday.

Conversely, Weeden had the best throw of the night, connecting with Keith Mumphery for a 64-yard touchdown late in the first half, with pressure in his face. But he also gifted Dallas a touchdown with a pick-six at 4:05 of the third quarter, making the type of big mistake that Savage was able to avoid. 

Top offensive grades:

G Oday Aboushi, 83.7

C Tony Bergstrom, 83.4

TE Eric Tomlinson, 76.8

T Jeff Adams, 76.2

WR Keith Mumphery, 75.9

Highest-graded guard of the preseason plays well once again

Right guard Oday Aboushi finished with his third positive overall grade in four preseason games, while playing 79 of the team’s 81 offensive snaps. He surrendered two pressures in 40 snaps in pass protection, but his work in the run game was far more impressive, as he repeatedly won against Dallas DTs Rodney Cole and Lawrence Okoye, whether sealing or generating significant downfield movement as part of a double team. With this performance, Aboushi finishes the preseason as PFF’s highest-graded guard, both overall and in run-blocking.

Top defensive grades:

DE Joel Heath, 83.5

DE Devon Still, 81.1

CB Robert Nelson, 80.8

CB Charles James, 80.6

DE Brandon Dunn, 78.1

Devon Still among interior linemen who impress

As was the case on offense, the Texans’ highest-graded defenders came up front, with ends Joel Heath and Devon Still making a significant impact in just 27 and 19 snaps, respectively. Heath compiled four pressures in 16 rushes and made several plays at the point of attack in run defense, with notable success against Dallas left guard Boston Stiverson.

Still has alternated positive and negative grades this preseason, but finished with a strong performance in both facets on Thursday. Among his three pressures was a hit at 3:26 of the first quarter, getting to Cowboys quarterback Jameill Showers during his throwing motion to force the incompletion.

Check out the Texans’ in-depth 2016 season preview right here.

Houston Texans 2016 season preview

Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback grades: Jameill Showers, 41.1

Jameill Showers plays poorly in extended look

Dallas also sat its first team for the duration of the game, including rookie starting QB Dak Prescott. That meant a full game for Jameill Showers, who looked more or less like a third-string quarterback over 28 dropbacks. His lowlight was a fumble on a mid-second quarter scramble, which gave the Texans a short field inside the red zone, while as a passer he completed just three of 10 passes that traveled more than 10 yards in the air, with multiple misfires.

Top offensive grades:

T Bryan Witzmann, 81.4

T Chaz Green, 80.1

FB Keith Smith, 74.2

TE Rico Gathers, 72.3

C Joe Looney, 68.5

Strong game for tackles Witzmann and Green

Tackles Bryan Witzmann and Chaz Green both graded well in extended looks, although in different facets. Witzmann was beaten inside for a stop early in the first quarter, but for the rest of the game (48 snaps) didn’t have a single negatively graded play in the run game. He finished the game with several good blocks himself, including at 8:47 of the fourth quarter, taking DE Dan Pettinato inside to open a cutback lane for his rusher, Rod Smith. Conversely, Green fared a bit better in pass protection with zero pressures allowed in 30 pass blocks to Witzmann’s two, and he also finished slightly above-average in the run game, although there wasn’t much of note there, either positively or negatively.

Top defensive grades:

CB Dax Swanson, 92.3

CB Anthony Brown, 90.8

DE Michael McAdoo, 83.7

S Isaiah Frey, 83.1

LB Deon King, 82.9

Two cornerbacks have standout performances

There were a number of impressive performances on Dallas’ defense, but the top two came in the secondary. CB Dax Swanson spent 56 of 63 snaps at left outside corner and allowed just one of five targets to be completed for an eight-yard gain, and he got his hand on two of the four incompletions for a pass defensed. The team’s second-highest grade came from Anthony Brown, who spent the bulk of his 68 snaps in the slot, allowing a catch on four of five targets (35 yards). But the fifth was a pick-six at 4:05 of the third, involving an impressive read and break on an out route. He also finished with two stops in run defense and two tackles on special teams.

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