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Houston Texans

Bennett seeks consistency


Cornerback Fred Bennett was a fourth-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

General manager Rick Smith always says that the Texans never can have enough good cornerbacks. That philosophy is reflected in the Texans' roster, which currently includes nine corners.

Of the top-five players at the position, excluding Dunta Robinson, veteran Jacques Reeves holds down one starting spot. Rookies Glover Quin and Brice McCain join 2008 third-round pick Antwaun Molden as developing pros. Finally, there is Fred Bennett, who is starting opposite Reeves during OTAs while Robinson works out away from the team.

Unproven yet undeniably talented, Bennett is at a crossroads in his career. On the one hand, he's a player that led the Texans with three interceptions as a rookie and has started 14 games in only two seasons. Yet he also saw a drop-off in virtually every statistical category last year.

{QUOTE}Bennett doesn't need anyone to spell out how critical his third NFL season is to his career.

"Most definitely, I have a lot to prove," he said. "But it's not a thing that I'm focused on right now. In the back of my mind, I know that I have something to prove, but it's not a big issue to me. I know I can get it done, and I know I will."

Defensive backs coach David Gibbs wasn't a stranger to Bennett when he was hired in January. As a coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, Gibbs evaluated Bennett's college film from South Carolina before the 2007 draft.

On Wednesday, Gibbs offered a blunt assessment of Bennett's career thus far.

"He's been up and down," Gibbs said. "He's been inconsistent as far as last year's film goes. But so far in OTAs and the times I've been on the field with him, he's improving his fundamentals, his technique.

"There's a saying in the NFL that the third year is a big mark for a player, so it's a make-or-break year for Fred, and so far he's accepting the challenge. He's doing really well."

The difference in Bennett's play can be attributed to a hyper-focus on technique, such as the "T Step" and other foot and hand placement skills that allow a rangy athlete like Bennett (6-0, 197) to break to the ball faster and increase his closing speed.

"He's a long-legged guy and he's got really long arms, so he might not be the quickest-twitch guy that plays the corner position, but he can take advantage of his length by getting his hands on receivers," Gibbs said. "That's something I think he's figuring out the older he gets and the more he develops."

Bennett enjoys working on the details.

"One thing I love about (Gibbs) is he focuses on the little things," Bennett said. "I feel like when you focus on the little things, the big things will come. It's proven itself day in and day out. We've got DBs out here flying around and making plays. So it's proven."

For now, Bennett is a starter, which is a role that he doesn't want to relinquish. Coach Gary Kubiak knows that there's a logjam at cornerback, which is a good problem to have.

The added reps that Bennett is receiving have given him more confidence, though coaches are quick to emphasize that reps don't make players better, quality reps do.

"Fred's a starter right now," Kubiak said. "This league is about opportunity, and through Dunta's situation, Fred's a starting corner on this team right now. We'll see how he does with it. He's really taken to David's attention and he's worked very, very hard."

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