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Houston Texans

Camp battle: Cornerbacks


The cornerback corps wasn't considered very deep when the Texans began training camp.

Dunta Robinson had been placed on the physically unable to perform list because of the knee and hamstring injuries he suffered in November.

Antwaun Molden, a rookie out of Eastern Kentucky, possessed raw talent, but his head was spinning trying to cover receivers like Andre Johnson.

Dallas fans had been ridiculing Houston's acquisition of Jacques Reeves, who had started for the Cowboys last season.

DeMarcus Faggins, who lost his starting spot to Fred Bennett last year, was dealing with a hamstring injury.

Flash forward a couple of weeks and it's a whole different story at corner.

{QUOTE}Unfortunately, Robinson still will be sidelined for almost half of the regular season. But the rest cornerbacks have upped their play, fueling one of the most competitive position battles on the team.

"It's a great group of corners," Molden said. "There's nothing more to say. I feel like every corner that's competing right now has the chance to start anywhere on any team. That's how competitive we are and talented we are."

Molden faced a steep learning curve entering camp. The Texans knew he was a fast, physical player with body of similar proportions to Bennett (6-1, 195). The question has been: Could Molden learn the fundamentals as quickly as Bennett did last year and make a push for starting duties?

From what he has seen in practice, Bennett thinks yes.

"He's got all the ability," Bennett said. "He's out here making plays that I didn't make last year. Like I said, I've got a lot of confidence in him. I know he has a lot of confidence in himself. I expect big things out of him."

Earning a starting spot won't be easy for Molden. Reeves has been lining up opposite Bennett and settling into the Texans' 4-3 defense quite nicely. In Dallas, Reeves played in a 3-4 scheme where he stayed off the ball and didn't get to show off his speed.

"Dallas ran a zone last year," Reeves said. "Here, I get to get in a receiver's face and get more physical with them. It's easier for me to read."

Reeves also is impressed by the depth at corner.

"We have a lot of talent back there," Reeves said. "It's almost surprising to me. A lot of these guys work hard and they come to every practice and try to get better."

Perhaps the surprise of camp is Jamar Fletcher, an eighth-year pro who started two games for the team last year and played in 10.

"He's just making plays," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "Fletcher knows what he's doing. He's a real pro, but he's making more plays on the ball. He's finding ways to get his hands on the ball and playing a lot of spots, too.

"I just think he was disappointed last year. He made our team and he was playing a little bit early for the team. (He) kind of got into a situation where he didn't suit up some. I know he got upset, which you should if you're a player. That should bother you. He was not a big part of what we were doing late in the season. A lot of guys can go south in those type of situations. But what he did was rededicate himself, get his mind right and he's had an excellent camp."

In fact, Kubiak thinks that Fletcher has made a case for starting duties in nickel.

"Right now in nickel, he would go inside there if Fred had to stay outside and do a heck of a job," Kubiak said. "You're going to play three, four, or five cornerbacks on any given game day. You can list two starters, but hell those guys play. So he's pushing to get a lot of playing time."

Fletcher knew that he started camp on the fringes of the roster and had little margin for error in camp.

"Last year for me, was an up-and-down situation," Fletcher said. "Like I said, the main thing in this business is that you want to be consistent.

"I had to get my hands on the ball (in camp) and I had to show up. That's the only way I'm going to get on this team and get on the field."

Faggins, who is one of the four originals members of the Texans, has armored himself with the same attitude. Things didn't look good for the seventh-year pro when he tweaked his hamstring in late July, but Faggins rebounded from the injury and has come up with a few big interceptions during practice.

"It's just a confidence boost to come and get my hands on the ball," Faggins said. "That's all I need is a confidence boost to forget about my leg. If I can do that, then everything will be all right."

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