The NFL waits for no one, whether legend or no name. Randy Moss and Lestar Jean are learning as much as each man tries to make a strong impression this preseason.
Moss is a future Hall of Famer, one of most dangerous game-changing wide receivers in league history in his prime, known throughout the football world. Jean is a second-year player from a Sun Belt Conference school who is barely known in Houston let alone outside of it.
Yet in exhibition game No. 2 — one of the "important" preseason games — for Moss' San Francisco 49ers and Jean's Houston Texans, the receiver who made the much bigger impact is the one with the ultra-light resume.
Moss couldn't shake Jackson for anything close to a big play. Instead, he looked like an old possession receiver.
While Moss looked ordinary in a matchup against third-year Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson (when did you ever think you'd read that?), Jean jumped up in the Texans' wide receiver race. Often literally.
Jean used his 6-foot-3 frame and long arms to extend high to catch several Matt Schaub passes in a 20-9 Texans win. He grabbed three on the first-team offense's only touchdown drive, capping it with a 9-yard turn and scamper into the end zone.
That gave the Texans a 10-6 lead at halftime — and Jean a much better shot at doing something when the games actually do count.
"He can be a big-time player," Schaub said afterwards. "He can be a real asset for us."
Lestar might not be living up to his name yet, but with two catches for 50 yards in the preseason opener and now this, he's making an impact as the Texans search for a third wideout, for anyone really to take some of the pressure off All-Pro Andre Johnson.
"For some reason this guy just continues to step up every time he gets a chance," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said of Jean. "He's pushing to get on the field very quickly for this team."
"It's a lot of pressure," Jean said of playing for a spot and a role on the team. "But I feel like things will take care of themselves. Just go out there, do your thing and have fun."
Fun is being had by these much questioned wide receivers. Johnson — who had the biggest play of the night as usual (a 43-yard catch between two 49ers) — rushed out to met Jean as No. 18 ran off the field following the touchdown.
Hey, Andre wants some help too.
That's what the 49ers are looking for from Moss, but at age 35 it's more and more debatable on how much he has left.
It's likely hard for Moss to get too excited for a game on Aug. 18, but he still couldn't shake Jackson for anything close to a big play. Instead, he played like an old possession receiver (three catches for 24 yards).
With a chance to make a big play, Moss went up and watched a pass sail through his hands. Get old, get the drops.
So much for all the reports about Moss looking great in camp.
"He's part of what we do," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said when asked about Moss.
The 24-year-old Jean is already getting an idea of how fleeting promise and opportunity are. Keshawn Martin, the rookie wideout from Michigan State, already appears to have passed him on the depth chart.
Martin, who caught a nice 22-yard slant from Schaub on the third play of the game, didn't do anything to lose his gains. Jean must continue to rise — and catch. His biggest asset is how big of a target he makes himself.
"It's a blessing," Jean said. "So many people want to be in my position, to have this type of opportunity in the NFL.
"You have to make the most of it."
The Texans are suddenly one of those fishbowl teams — roster battles play out in headlines and endless sports radio debates.
One sign of the excitement over these Texans came in the crowd that turned out for an exhibition game on one of the last Saturdays of summer. Every seat at Reliant Stadium wasn't taken, but every section was packed — a far cry from the half empty stadiums that some preseason games have seen around the league.
Alex Smith found himself caught in Phillips' mad funhouse, almost leveled by Barwin on San Fran's first offensive play and sacked twice on the opening series.
And 71,196 people (an all-time franchise preseason record) paid for a ticket to a game that will be long forgotten by Sept. 9. And close to 15,000 remained till the clock hit 00:00, a shockingly large number for a preseason game.
Wade Phillips' Bulls On Parade defense thrives off that crowd and Connor Barwin, Antonio Smith and Co. asked for even more volume from their first snap, turning to the stands and raising their arms. And Reliant more than obliged.
49ers quarterback Alex Smith found himself caught in Phillips' mad funhouse, almost leveled by Barwin on San Francisco's first offensive play and sacked twice on the opening series with Texans defensive end Tim Jamison in on both of them. Jamison is filling in as J.J. Watt recovers from his elbow injury and this preseason means more to him than most.
You didn't have to look far to see how quickly things can change in the NFL.
The 49ers are coming off a surprise 13-3 season that left them an overtime short of the Super Bowl. The Texans didn't see that team at its full power or ferocity — pass rushing force Aldon Smith (14 sacks in 2011) sat out the game and even Harbaugh isn't wacky enough to get too lathered up over a preseason game.
No preseason game is a possible Super Bowl preview. Any such talk obliterates credibility.
Arian Foster carried the ball 10 times for 46 yards and caught three passes for 16 yards, with the only alarming numbers there how much Kubiak used the best running back in football in a meaningless game.
In the kicking battle, veteran Shayne Graham made a 48-yard field goal with plenty to spare and a 49-yarder too, while rookie Randy Bullock missed a 54-yard attempt.
The Texans' first-team offense gained 177 yards on 25 snaps.
University of Houston icon Case Keenum didn't end up taking his first snap until only seven minutes remained in the fourth quarter and only ended up throwing three passes despite all the pregame hype.
And perhaps most importantly of all, 5-foot-5 return specialist Trindon Holliday took one back for a touchdown for the second straight week — this time, an 87-yard sprint off a punt in the fourth quarter that mimicked his Week One touchdown return in how quickly he found a seam and was gone. Yes, as I wrote last Saturday, Trindon Holliday is making this team.
As Jean himself is learning, nothing beats making an impact.