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Houston Texans

Camp spotlight: Matt Schaub


The NFL motto this year, "Believe in Now," couldn't fit the Texans any better. It's the third year of the Gary Kubiak era and the team never has looked better. It's also the second season as starter for quarterback Matt Schaub, and that could mean all the difference to a team searching for its first-ever postseason berth.

Undoubtedly, Schaub wants to prove that he can be counted on to lead the team for the forseeable future. Last year, his injuries drew an incomplete picture after a blockbuster trade with Atlanta landed Schaub in the Bayou City.

"I expect to be on the field and not get injured and be out there for 16 weeks and help my ball club win," Schaub said. "If I can control my responsibilities with the team and take care of the football, we'll be in fine shape.

"Last year, everything was just new for me with moving and everything else that goes on when you're in transition from one team to another. Now, I'm comfortable with my surroundings and everyone that's around me, my teammates and the coaches and what they ask of me."

{QUOTE}What the Texans are asking for, first and foremost, is that Schaub stay healthy. The quarterback missed five games in his first season in Houston due to injuries. He suffered a concussion and a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery.

Schaub has looked 100 percent during training camp, but the team will need him to stay that way.

"He has improved," Kubiak said. "He is a better player through the offseason. But, of course, staying healthy is a big, big key. The key to that is working hard in the offseason, taking care of your body and the team getting better around you.

"I think we know what we have. We know what type of player he is. We saw that when he was healthy and he was in there. The goal, of course, is to keep him upright."

Schaub realizes his durability is crucial to the Texans improving their record in the rugged AFC South, a division that sent three teams to the playoffs in 2007. The fifth-year pro thinks an improved run game will help keep him on the field and increase the offense's productivity.

"Running the football is going to help our whole team eat up some clock, get some yardage, keep us in manageable third downs and cut down how many passes we do have to throw," Schaub said. "It keeps defenses off balance because they don't know if you are going to run the ball or play action."

The Texans lived and died by their passing game last season. Despite sitting out with injuries, Schaub threw for 3,274 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, and Houston's passing game finished 11th in the NFL. On the ground, the team averaged only 99.1 yards rushing per game and struggled to run the ball in the red zone.

Now, the offense is installing a zone scheme under new assistant head coach Alex Gibb to improve the run game and help protect the quarterback.

"A better running game helps everything," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "It helps to make less turnovers because you don't have to throw it as much against tough coverages. You shouldn't throw as many picks if we are running the ball better. It definitely helps against the pass rush because now you can't just tee off to get the quarterback. They (defensive linemen) have to stay in their gaps and make sure they are secure in the run game first."

Whether it's working with the running backs and offensive linemen in adapting to the zone scheme or connecting on deep passes with the wide receivers, Schaub has demonstrated an increased sense of confidence under center.

"I think just him having a year of being a starter under his belt, just experience, when he is out there, he's more confident," wideout Andre Johnson said.

"You can see it just from being with him in the huddle and just from talking to him when we talk about plays when we are out at practice. He's getting better and he's going to make this team better."

Johnson and Schaub developed instant chemistry last year, but injuries interrupted their rhythm. The Pro Bowl receiver thinks Schaub will take ownership of the offense this season.

"I think at the time when he got here, he was a guy who was finally getting an opportunity," Johnson said. "He was ready to go out and just show people what he can do. We started off real well, but we had the injuries happen, and just from talking to him in the offseason, he's still ready to go out and show people that he can be a star quarterback of the league."

Shanahan agrees, pointing out that leading a team comes naturally to the quarterback.

"Matt doesn't have to try to do anything," Shanahan said. "He's himself all the time. I think guys respond to him and his natural personality. He can get on guys because he can also comfort guys when he needs to. Guys need both and he does both without trying. He's very charismatic when it comes to that."

Being a leader may come easy to Schaub, but it's a role he takes seriously.

"Throughout life playing sports and being in certain positions, you have to step up and become a leader amongst your peers," Schaub said. "It comes naturally, but there's a fine line between being too overly vocal and then doing it by example. So you've got to do both."

Schaub's confidence and friendly nature also have led him to become good friends with many of his teammates, which has translated to better play on the field.

"Matt's great," wide receiver Kevin Walter said. "Off the field, we're good buddies, hanging out. And our timing and everything is getting better. I think we're leaps and bounds from last year. We're going to score a lot of points and gain a lot of yards this year."

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