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Brown's improvement crucial for Schaub


Left tackle Duane Brown will be charged with protecting quarterback Matt Schaub from Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney.

Assistant head coach Alex Gibbs made it clear to Duane Brown before the season began that the rookie needed to get better or else. And when it comes to Gibbs, a player never wants to find out what "else" means.

Brown took his marching orders on the first day of mini-camp when he took over as the starting left tackle and he improved each day during the preseason as he squared off against defensive end Mario Williams.

Williams gave Brown only a taste of what he would face in his first three games, with the Texans going against some of the toughest defenses in the league right off the bat.

In the season opener at Pittsburgh, Brown was spinning like a top trying to pick up the Steelers' 3-4 blitz packages. The Texans offensive line allowed five sacks in the game, and three were caused by linebacker James Harrison blowing past Brown.

"It was pretty rough, Brown said. "I blame myself. They have a great defense, great players, but I hurt myself more, I think, just with my technique and stuff. I got out of whack sometimes, and that hurt us a couple of plays."

So Brown went back to work. In Week 3 against the Titans, there were signs of improvement. But the left tackle let the high-motored Kyle Vanden Bosch get the better of him and then the better of quarterback Matt Schaub. Vanden Bosch recorded a sack and three quarterback hurries, and Schaub finished with three interceptions and no touchdowns.

Once again, Brown grew from the experience. Last week, he went to Jacksonville and held his own. Brown didn't let a lineman beat him and Schaub wasn't sacked. Plus, Schaub didn't throw an interception and finished with 307 passing yards and three touchdowns.

{QUOTE}Coincidence? Probably not.

Brown's performance and that of Schaub are linked. Schaub is the type of quarterback who excels when he has good pass protection and time to see the field. For him to feel comfortable in the pocket, Brown has to protect his blindside.

That protection will be crucial this Sunday against the Colts, a team with a defensive line built on rushing the passer.

"If you watch them on film, Indy is not too concerned with anything else but getting to the quarterback and I think they leave the responsibility of the run to the interior lineman and the linebackers," Brown said. "They just try to do everything they can to bring pressure to the quarterback."

Leading that charge is Dwight Freeney, a three-time Pro Bowl defensive end who uses his quickness to slip past offensive linemen.

"When you think about headaches for a left tackle, you think about Dwight Freeney," Brown said. "He's fast. He has leverage and he's strong. He has everything that makes him a great pass rusher and you never really know what move he's going to do."

Freeney also possesses an uncanny ability to read his blockers.

"He's so good at reading where your weight is," Brown said. "If your weights too far outside, he'll spin inside. If your weight's too far inside, he'll dip and go outside. He can always use the bull rush, which people always underestimate. He's very strong. So, I've just got to have a great week of practice and try to prepare as best as I can for him."

If Brown keeps showing the same week-to-week improvement, he should be fairly well equipped. Of course, the task won't be easy, but Gibbs never promised the rookie an easy road.

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