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2009 Draft Pass: Kubiak reviews picks


For the first-time ever, is offering fans exclusive access to all of the major figures in the Texans' 2009 NFL Draft process. Starting Monday, April 27, through Friday, May 1, the Texans will provide fans with in-depth interviews on every day at 1:30 p.m. CT.

In our first segment, Texans TV's Brooke Bentley sat down with head coach Gary Kubiak to evaluate the Texans' 2009 draft class and discuss how the rookies can contribute on the field.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): Coach, you have had a day to digest the 2009 draft. The Texans said they wanted to select impact players on defense. Do you feel like you met your defensive needs, especially in the first round with the selection of linebacker Brian Cushing?

Head coach Gary Kubiak: When you go to Saturday, we felt very good. Of course, Brian was a target of ours as the day started. The way the draft unfolded, we saw that we would get him and it wasn't going to be a situation where all of a sudden he left before our pick. That worked out very well. I think he (is) an automatic impact player for us at SAM linebacker; he stays on the field with us for three downs. He is one of the hardest playing guys in college football; he had a great career there at USC. So we bring him in here and expect to plug him in really fast.

The other young man (Connor Barwin) was very intriguing for a lot of men in the NFL. He was very athletic, one of the best athletes in the draft, a young player, played one year at defensive end and lit it up from a sack standpoint. We need somebody who can rush the passer. We have an athlete there who we can work with and we think can be an impact player right away, can rush the passer and play for (special teams coordinator) Joe (Marciano) and has a bright future as a defensive end. So we felt very good about the first day, and that helped us as we went into Sunday.

Brooke Bentley: Connor Barwin, the second-round pick - do you think he allows you to be more creative on defense and maybe move defensive end Antonio Smith around?

Gary Kubiak: Yeah, I do. There was even talk about (Barwin) being a linebacker. We see him with his hand down, playing defensive end. But what he does, he gives us flexibility. It's third down and you move him to one end and you move Mario (Williams) wherever you want to put Mario. Antonio can go inside and rush the passer, which he has done very well. That does give us some flexibility. But, basically, you start with his athleticism and what he adds to our defense. You take both of those players and we are so much more athletic on defense right now than we were three days ago. So that's a good start.

{QUOTE}Brooke Bentley: The Texans ended up drafting five defensive players and three on offense. On offense, the Texans drafted a center and two tight ends. Do you feel like you met your offensive needs?

Gary Kubiak: There was a lot of talk of us needing a running back, and we did. We needed a complement to Steve (Slaton). But I think what the draft told you was that we're not going to reach as a team if we don't think that player is there. We did feel good about a couple of backs, but they went before our pick in the third round. So it's time for us to adjust and make sure we have the best possible players for our team, and that started with (Alabama center Antoine) Caldwell. We liked him a bunch going into the draft. We had a need for a swing player: a guard, a center that can push Chester (Pitts), push Chris (Myers), push Mike (Brisiel) and make us better and give us some flexibility in there as a team. So he was a big target of ours and to get him, we feel good about that. Once again, he's another young man who had a great college career. I think he was a three-year or two-year captain and he graduated in three years. Even you and I couldn't do that. We feel very good about that.

The two tight ends, they serve different purposes. One is very physical; we needed a guy who could block some of these big SAM linebackers we see in a 3-4; we needed a physical player who could take some of the load off of Joel (Dreessen) and O.D. (Owen Daniels). We were able to get that young man (Anthony) Hill in the fourth round... And then in the fifth round, we felt like we into that one (with James Casey). He was one of the best athletes in this draft. He is a versatile player from right across the street. I have known him for a couple of years. We will find a way to make him fit in our system, but we think he will have a great pro career.

Brooke Bentley: OK, coach, I am going to hit you with some fan questions. Here we go: You said you were interested in finding a running back to complement Steve Slaton, but you did not draft a running back this year. Did you feel like this was a weak draft for running backs?

Gary Kubiak: I wouldn't say that it was weak, but we targeted a couple guys that we thought fit what we are looking for. The minute they came off the draft board, we could easily have reached and grabbed any other back that was left and say that was the guy we wanted when obviously that wasn't the case. The ones we wanted were taken, so we weren't going to panic right there. We go on and get good football players for our team that we know can fill a role right now and play, and we will work with the running back situation. Who knows, we signed two free agents at the end of the day (Oregon's Jeremiah Johnson and Tennessee's Arian Foster). They may end up being the best two. There was no panic on our part in the draft, and now we understand the issue we have to work with.

Brooke Bentley: The Texans drafted two tight ends, Anthony Hill and James Casey. Are you interested in running two- and three- tight end sets?

Gary Kubiak: I think we would like to (split between) a two-back set to a one-back set. We'd like to be a 50-50 team. Last year, if we lined up with Vonta (Leach) and Steve in the backfield, we were very unpredictable when you were trying to run defenses against us. If we lined up in a one-back set, we were very predictable just because we threw the ball a great deal more. What this does now with getting a big blocking guy, getting Anthony, it gives us some flexibility where we can be a little harder to a defense. Of course, getting James, it gives us another athlete like O.D. You never know, we'll see what we do best and we'll go out there and do it. Right now, we have an excellent chance to get better from a two-tight end standpoint.

Brooke Bentley: The Texans didn't draft a quarterback this year. Does that mean you are comfortable with Alex Brink. Would there be any interest in bringing in Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell?

Gary Kubiak: There was some thought there at the end of the day (to drafting a quarterback), but we do feel very good about Alex and his progress. We need to see more. He's about to get a great deal of time in our OTAs. We have a lot of time invested in him and we are about to invest a great deal more. Would we bring in another young man? There's a possibility that could happen. Graham, I really liked him going into the draft. We had a lot of other pressing needs we needed to address, but I don't have any doubt that he's going to make it in this league. I don't know if anything has happened between yesterday and today as we talk, but obviously I think he is a very fine player.

Brooke Bentley: One fan says, "Coach, I hear you believe in open competition at every position. Is that the case at center or does Chris Myers have that job secured even with us drafting Alabama's Antoine Caldwell?"

Gary Kubiak: Chris is our starting center. He has earned that right to start at that position, so I feel very good about Chris' progress and what has taken place. But what we brought in is a guy who can play center and he can play guard. We have a few issues going on right now. Chester has had his elbows cleaned out on both sides, which I don't think is going to be a factor at all going into the season, but it's happened. Mike Brisiel has battled his back a little in the offseason. We are a team that started the same five offensive linemen all year long, so we were very, very fortunate. We felt like we got away with something right there, and we're just covering ourselves and getting another good football player that gives us competition upfront and makes us better.

Brooke Bentley: It's not very likely in the NFL when you have the same offensive linemen starting every single game together.

Gary Kubiak: Yeah, it's amazing, but that's why we got better as a team because those guys were out there every week. I'm sure hoping for the same things. That's the way we are approaching it with (assistant head coach) Alex (Gibbs) and (offensive line coach) John (Benton). We expect them to stay out there unless it's really, really bad, and they've been able to do that. But the group should only get better, and this young man, by pushing them, should make us even better.

Brooke Bentley: One last fan question and we'll get you off the hot seat. What were the deciding factors in drafting Brian Cushing over Clay Matthews III?

Gary Kubiak: Well, USC had four great linebackers (Cushing, Matthews, Rey Maualuga, Kaluka Maiava). You could have lined them up any way and they would have been successful. But at the end of the day we felt like Brian fit exactly what we were looking for because he could play over the tight end, he can play off the ball, he can stay on the field in nickel, he could rush the passer. His intensity, the way he goes about it – it was very, very close between all those guys, but we feel like we got our guy and the guy that was the best for the Texans. And I have no doubt those guys will go on to have great careers also.

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