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Nick’s Notes: Lestar Jean, Garrett Graham among Saturday standouts

Posted Aug 12, 2012

Notes and quotes from Texans head coach Gary Kubiak’s Sunday afternoon press conference at Reliant Stadium.

Lestar Jean

Notes and quotes from Texans head coach Gary Kubiak’s Sunday afternoon press conference at Reliant Stadium, a day after the Texans beat the Carolina Panthers 26-13 in their preseason opener in Charlotte:

Martin keeps coming
Rookie wide receiver Keshawn Martin started for Andre Johnson on Saturday and had two catches for 24 yards. He also had a 12-yard carry on an end around in the first quarter. Martin had 64 carries for 540 yards (8.4 average) at Michigan State, where he scored a touchdown receiving, rushing, passing and on kick and punt returns.

“He has tremendous speed,” Kubiak said. “He outran a couple guys (on the end around) and found a way to make a 10- or 11-yard gain where it might be a 5-yard loss. He’s a very talented young man. I thought he held himself together pretty good. Had some mistakes, some consistency stuff, but for a guy to be here two weeks and start at receiver in his first preseason game, I thought he did a pretty good job.”

A fourth-round draft pick, Martin has had an excellent offseason and emerged as the Texans’ most consistent receiver behind Johnson and Kevin Walter.

Big potential
Second-year wide receiver Lestar Jean led the Texans against Carolina with 50 receiving yards on just two catches, both of them difficult grabs in traffic. The first was a twisting 29-yard catch down the left side from T.J. Yates. The second was a 21-yarder from John Beck that Jean caught at the Carolina 5-yard line and held on to despite getting sandwiched by Panthers defensive backs Reggie Smith and Darius Butler.

“(He) did some really good stuff – needs to get consistent because he has a chance to be a heck of a player,” Kubiak said. “But made some tough catches last night for us, did a pretty good job in the running game, made a couple tackles on special teams. But needs to continue to get consistent with what he’s doing because he has a chance to be a big-time player in this league – not just a good player. So we’re going to push him, trying to find that next level.”

In the only two full preseason games of his career, Jean now has four catches for 103 yards (25.8 average). Undrafted out of Florida Atlantic in 2011, he had two catches for 53 yards in last year’s preseason opener, then injured his shoulder in the next game and spent the rest of the year on injured reserve.

Graham on his way
Texans tight end Garrett Graham had a team-high three catches, all for first downs, for 44 yards. A third-year pro out of Wisconsin, Graham is primed for a bigger role in 2012 after former number-two tight end Joel Dreessen signed with the Denver Broncos this offseason.

“He’s a very-much-improved player, and we’ve seen that the last two weeks; it didn’t just happen last night,” Kubiak said. “He’s come a long way. He’s bigger, stronger, he’s faster. He’s had a great offseason with (strength and conditioning coach) Cedric (Smith)… and if he continues to step up the way he has in his first few weeks, it’s going to be a really nice year for him. I’ve been very impressed with his play.”

Solid debut for Grimes
Rookie running back Jonathan Grimes had nine carries for 37 yards (4.1 average) and a touchdown in his NFL debut, with a long run of 14. The undrafted free agent from William & Mary ran for a four-yard touchdown in the third quarter and had an 18-yard catch on third-and-12 in the fourth quarter.

“I’ve been impressed with him the whole time,” Kubiak said. “Y’all know that. He not only played well offensively but played well on special teams… He’s a very reliable, sharp young man, handles himself like he’s been around for a couple years, and it showed on the field last night.”

Kubiak said there’s a “great competition going on” for the Texans’ third running back spot among fifth-year veteran Justin Forsett, Grimes and undrafted rookie Davin Meggett from Maryland.

More for Keenum
Working as the Texans’ fourth quarterback, undrafted rookie Case Keenum went 2-of-3 for 33 yards in his NFL preseason debut. Kubiak said the former Houston Cougar will get more reps on Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers at Reliant Stadium.

“I think Case did a good job,” Kubiak said. “He’s working with our young offensive line. We had some breakdowns up front, but he found a way to keep things positive and move the football. I’ll give him some more this week.”

Veteran presence
Inside linebacker Tim Dobbins had 1.5 sacks Saturday and led the Texans’ defense with five tackles and two tackles for loss. The seventh-year pro entered the game late in the first quarter as the backup to Bradie James.

“I think Dobbins is a much-improved player, kind of like Garrett Graham,” Kubiak said. “Dobbins had a great camp and played very well last night.”

Dobbins was the Texans’ top reserve inside linebacker in 2011 after Darryl Sharpton went down with a season-ending quad injury in Week 8. He was a key special teams player and made one of the team’s defensive plays of the year, stuffing Ray Rice at the goal line on fourth-and-one late in the Texans’ Divisional Round playoff game at Baltimore.

O-line competition
Rashad Butler started at right tackle against the Panthers. Antoine Caldwell started at right guard. Butler is competing for a starting job with second-year pro Derek Newton. Caldwell is competing with rookie third-round pick Brandon Brooks.

“I think that Butler and Caldwell played like they were more veterans than the other two, which you would expect, but I think they all did some good things,” Kubiak said. “The young kid (Brooks) came in and I thought he did some good things, especially in pass-pro.  I thought Newton was a little inconsistent but continues to flash.”

Kubiak hopes to settle on starters at the two positions by the third week of the preseason.

“It’s going to be a good battle,” he said. “We played those guys probably more than any of our older players last night, and that will be on a continuous basis over the next couple weeks. I think they kind of played the way I expected them to play.”


Twitter.com/NickScurfield

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