For Ben Jones, making the transition to center has been a relatively easy one. Last season, he took reps behind starter Chris Myers in practice and prepared as the backup.
"I gave Chris his breaks in practice last year, and the past three years, so we all rotated in," Jones said in an interview with Texans Radio. "We have Brick (James Ferentz), Xavier (Su'a-Filo), Cody (White), all those guys have to be able to play center too. It's not just, 'Hey, you come in and play one position here.' You have to be versatile, and that's how you get better here."
Versatility was also his ticket to more playing time. Jones, originally drafted in 2012 to be a center, worked his way into the Texans starting lineup at right guard. It was familiar ground for the former Bulldog, who ranked third in Georgia history with 49 starts.
Now back at center, his biggest challenge is probably right in front of Jones, literally. Every day in practice, Jones faces five-time Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork. It's prepared him for the different styles of players he faces, from rookie Christian Covington to nose tackles on Washington's roster.
"I see Big Vince every day," Jones said. "So, they're very similar, they're big guys who plug the hole. That's the thing in our defense; you go from Vince to Covington. So, you see a little bit of everything in practice. That's with every team. You're going to see a bigger guy if they're a 3-4 team. Then, they get in the sub-personnel, and you're going to see a little smaller guy."
Both Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett have been taking snaps from Jones in training camp. Their leadership skills in the huddle are apparent to Jones, now in his fourth season with the Texans. Being from Centreville, Ala., Jones even draws upon his Southern roots when communicating with Mallett and translating to the rest of the offensive line.
"Mallett is a little bit more country, so I hear a little slang turning, and I can hear that a little more," Jones said. "That's about it though. Every once in a while, you hear something like, 'What did he just say?' and I say, 'I got it. We are rolling. We are good.' They're used to my voice now, so they're used to hearing his too."
The Texans rotate offensive linemen in at center but currently two other players are officially listed as centers on the roster in addition to Jones: second-year James Ferentz and rookie Greg Mancz.