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Bradley Roby 'looking forward' to facing Thomas again

Matchups make fights. On paper, the New Orleans Saints' offense could walk over the Houston Texans' defense.

After trading Jadeveon Clowney and adding left tackle Laremy Tunsil in blockbuster trades last weekend, the discussion surrounding the Texans has been about the offense and the future, not so much on how the Texans defense stacks up.

The loss of Clowney is huge from an on-field perspective, as it wipes out a potent run-stuffer and athletic playmaker opposite J.J. Watt. Before the trade, however, there were questions about whether the back end had enough depth to compete with high-flying offenses. Those questions still remain.

That depth will be tested off the bat on Monday night against New Orleans. The key to the Saints' offense is trying to slow down star receiver Michael Thomas. It's a daunting task that will be taken up, at least in part, by new Texans corner Bradley Roby.

Roby faced Thomas once before while in Denver when the receiver was in his first year. During that tilt, Thomas had his worst game as a rookie, catching four passes for 40 yards and losing two fumbles.

"I'm looking forward to the second time," Roby said Thursday of facing Thomas again, via the team's official website. "What do I see in him? He's a big target, great hands, great size, has a great relationship with [quarterback] Drew (Brees) and he's very successful."

Odds are Thomas won't have the same struggles he did last time Roby saw him on the field. Not only does the Texans CB no longer have Aqib Talib and Chris Harris to help him out this time -- Roby did have two passes defended and a forced fumble in that first game versus Thomas -- the Saints WR has developed into one of the premier receivers in the NFL.

Thomas caught 85 percent of his targets last season, the highest catch rate (minimum 75 targets) in a season by a WR since the NFL started tracking targets in 1992. That ridiculous catch-rate allowed Thomas to lead the NFL with 125 receptions last year despite ranking outside the top 10 in targets.

The 26-year-old has also gotten off to some hot starts in his three-year pro career, earning 27 career receptions in Week 1s (second-most in NFL since 2016 -- only Antonio Brown (28) has more in that span).

"He's a great player," O'Brien said of Thomas earlier this week. "He's got good size, good speed, very, very good route runner. He's got great chemistry with the quarterback -- on the same page. The ball is in the air many times before he comes out of his break. He understands coverage, he understands leverage, he's got excellent hands, he's got it all. He's a great player and it's going to be a big challenge for us."

The Thomas-Brees combo will be a big test for the Texans' remade secondary. If Houston can't slow down the Saints, all the improvements on offense might not matter in Week 1.

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