Keys to Victory: What we're watching in Houston

  1. Kevin Hogan is set to make his first-career start in Houston after being named the Browns' starting quarterback earlier this week.

Hogan, who replaces developing rookie DeShone Kizer, spoke of the need to be efficient and effective against a talented Texans defense this weekend. "It's going to be a big week for all of us," he said Wednesday, "just making sure that we're putting in that much more preparation and studying getting ready for this defense."

Hogan, the former Stanford standout who joined the Browns practice squad last season, has grown in leaps and bounds since coming to Cleveland. In last week's loss to the Jets, he passed for 194 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in two quarters of play.

Hogan, whom head coach Hue Jackson described as "Steady Eddy" this week, said he's been pleased with his demeanor this week in practice.

"Kevin doesn't get too high or get too low," he said. "He is really steady."

Hogan, who passed for 9,385 passing yards, 75 passing touchdowns, and a school-record 15 rushing touchdowns in four seasons at Stanford, helped lift the Cardinal to three Pac-12 titles and a 2016 Rose Bowl victory. He said last weekend reminded him of his time in Palo Alto.

"I played a lot of games in college, and when I was out there the other day, it felt like I was in college again," he said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity. I'm going to prepare my butt off this week for the guys around me and make sure they have confidence in me and trust me to lead them so that I'm feeling good going into Sunday."

  1. For the first time this season, the Browns defense expects to be at full strength with Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins Sr., rookie defensive end Myles Garrett and third-year defensive tackle Danny Shelton all back into the fold.

"We're back to almost full strength," Jackson said.  "I think the guys are excited to be out there playing, practicing together and I think they're looking forward to playing in a game together."

Collins missed the past three weeks with a concussion while Garrett, the first overall pick this past spring, made his regular season debut last weekend. Shelton also returned from a calf injury.

"I'm excited to see our guys come back. It's a challenge for us to go on the road," linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "As a competitor, you like that challenge. We have our guys. Jamie is back, Myles, he came back last week. We have all of our guys out there and ready to get a win. I'm definitely excited for that.

  1. Since taking over as Houston's starting quarterback, Deshaun Watson has been an electric force for the Texans' offense. Jackson said he's not surprised by the rookie's early success.

"He's not doing anything different than what he did in college," Jackson said of the former Clemson star. "He's making plays all the time and leading this football team. He's a very intelligent player. I think he works extremely hard based on what I know and spending my time with him. He's a challenge because he can hurt you throwing the ball and he can hurt you running the ball."

Watson, who guided the Tigers to a national title last season, has passed for 1,072 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions in five games. He's also added 179 yards and two more scores.

  1. In search of their first victory, Jackson expressed confidence in a young team that has stuck together amid early adversity.

"We're all in. Everybody to a man, we're all in. We know what we are facing," he said Monday. "We know everything that is going to get said and written and all of that. Honestly, we don't care. We're not going to get concerned about any of that. What we're going to get concerned about is just playing winning football, getting better and making sure that we take care of our issues as a football team. That's what we have to do in order to get this thing turned. As I told them, I came here for one reason and that is to get it turned."

With a 1-21 record since the start of 2016, Jackson said "nobody can do anything about (the record) but us."

"No one is going to run from what we are dealing with," he continued. "We are accountable to it. We have to fix it, and that is what it is."

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