The biggest headline from Monday night's meeting between the New York Jets and Houston Texans was all the star power that was missing -- Andre Johnson and Brian Cushing and Arian Foster and Plaxico Burress and Nick Mangold -- but there was still plenty to glean from the exercise:
1) The Texans showed a little bit on defense. The switch to the 3-4 still leaves plenty of questions, and yes, Mangold wasn't anchoring New York's line, but Houston hit Mark Sanchez and came up with a few stands. I still wonder if they have a true nose tackle to allow them to play the run the way, say, Casey Hampton would. They were a fired-up bunch, however, with Mario Williams screaming to his teammates pre-game about changing their culture and identity on defense.
2) Derrick Mason will be a factor. The guy is a borderline Hall of Famer and classic overachiever and he is fired up after the Ravens let him go. Spoke to him for a bit before the game and he definitely has a chip on his shoulder. Sanchez looked for him a lot and when Mason and Santonio Holmes were in the slot together, the Texans had no answers.
3) The Texans are running out of running backs. They were down to two before the game began, with Foster and Steve Slaton and Ben Tate all banged up, then Derrick Ward left with a head injury in the second series of the game. I know most of these injuries aren't thought to be long-term, but I can't help but wonder if a free agent like Clinton Portis, who once upon a time excelled in this zone scheme, might be worth a phone call. (Chris Ogbonnaya, the last back standing, had 16 touches and 86 combined yards in the first half alone.)
4) Will the Jets get vertical? As much as I love what Mason and Holmes can do, I can't help but wonder how long it will take Plaxico Burress to come around and who will help expand this offense? Might be a lot of dinking and dunking and I still have a feeling there will be a heavy dose of ground and pound as well (Shonn Greene had a nice preseason debut, by the way).
5) Matt Leinart bears watching. Maybe, just maybe, the light bulb is flickering on, at least a little bit. Coach Gary Kubiak has been heaping praise upon him and he made some plays against the Jets. He figures to see ample time this preseason and perhaps he will reward Houston's investment in him. Not sure he could be a downfield passer, but maybe he could be something of a game manager.