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Matt Schaub's Texans return tops Saturday's moments

Just two games were on the docket on Saturday night, but there was plenty of action. We got our first look of the season at 2011 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton, and we also saw how Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has recovered from last season's right foot injury.

Quarterback competitions highlighted the nightcap in the Pacific Northwest. Former Seattle Seahawks signal-caller Matt Hasselbeck and former University of Washington standout Jake Locker began their battle for the Tennessee Titans' starting job. Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson, two players who spent last season in the Badger State, continued their competition for the Seahawks' job.

» Texans quarterback Matt Schaub's foot does not appear to be an issue after a Lisfranc injury ended his 2011 season. Schaub played well on the Texans' opening drive, completing 3 of 5 passes for 52 yards and showing good mobility.

» Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is the real deal. The No. 9 overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft played a few series at weakside linebacker and had four tackles. Two plays stood out: Kuechly stuffed Texans running back Ben Tate for no gain on a play from the Panthers' 2-yard line on his first defensive series, and he forced a fumble on two-time Pro Bowl selection Arian Foster on his subsequent outing.

» Speaking of first-rounders, Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus showed off his pass-rushing skills, coming off the edge to post 1.5 sacks against the Panthers' reserves.

» The Panthers still need to work on their special teams. According to Football Outsiders' advanced metrics, last year's unit ranked dead last in the league. Improving the unit was a priority this offseason, with the team adding Haruki Nakamura, Kenny Onatolu and Mike Tolbert for their special teams skills. Allowing a 90-yard kick return for a touchdown is a sign this unit needs a lot of work before the season opener.

» Jimmy Clausen might need a change of scenery, or quite possibly a hug. Stuck in the No. 3 role behind Newton and Derek Anderson, Clausen completed 3 of 6 pass attempts, but was sacked five times and lost a fumble, as he frequently was running for his life.

» Titans running back Chris Johnson skipped the 2011 preseason, and you could argue he is yet to show up this year. Johnson had 5 carries for 8 yards (including a long of 9 yards) and let a pair of screen passes slip through his hands.

» The Seahawks' quarterback situation is far from settled. Saturday night's starter Matt Flynn didn't throw the ball downfield, but made quick decisions as he completed 11 of 13 pass attempts for 71 yards and an interception. He accomplished that while playing without targets Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin and Kellen Winslow.

Not to be outdone, Russell Wilson took over in the second half and completed six consecutive passes at one point, including a 39-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards. He had a solid statistical night while playing with the second- and third-stringers.

» Seattle maximized Wilson's mobility, and accounted for his below-average height for a quarterback, by running a lot of play-action bootlegs and getting him out of the pocket and into space, where he can use his athleticism and improvisational skills. Wilson led the Seahawks with 59 rushing yards, and his 32-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes put an exclamation point on the win.

» Reports out of Titans camp were that Matt Hasselbeck was throwing more interceptions than 2011 first-round pick Jake Locker, a trend that continued on Saturday night. Locker helped himself in Tennessee's quarterback competition by engineering an 11-play, 79-yard drive that ended with a Rob Bironas 32-yard field goal to cut into what had been a 10-point Seahawks lead. Surprisingly, Locker just played the one quarter in front of his hometown crowd.

» Seattle's secondary enters 2012 with very high expectations and made some loud statements in the first half. Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Browner snared a tipped ball on Hasselbeck's first pass attempt, returning it for a 23-yard touchdown, Richard Sherman intercepted a Hasselbeck deep ball early in the second quarter, and Kam Chancellor showed Chris Johnson his "hit, lift and drive" technique on a short gain. If the front seven improves, this very well could be a top-five unit.

Follow Brian McIntyre on Twitter @brian_mcintyre

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