Comfort zone

They play on opposite sides of the trenches. But Robaire Smith and Todd Wade share two distinctions.

As the Texans' two most high-profile free agent acquisitions, they're both looking to prove their worth this season. And both Smith and Wade are having to learn a new system, which makes these off-season coaching sessions all the more valuable.

"I'm comfortable," Smith said Tuesday. "Just as long as I'm on the field and can get a chance to learn."

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What Smith has to learn is Houston's 3-4 defense. He played in Tennessee's 4-3 the past four seasons as a left tackle between end Kevin Carter and fellow tackle Albert Haynesworth. Now he'll be lining up as the Texans' right end next to the nose tackle.

It's no secret the Texans need more of a pass rush from their front three. And with a career-best 4 1/2 sacks last season in a tighter working space, Smith feels like he can help Houston's defense crash the backfield more.

"I can definitely bring that (pass-rush) attitude," Smith said. "There are a lot of guys out here with that in them, it's just a matter of all of us getting on the same page.

"That's why it's a good thing we're all out here right now getting a feel for it. Whether you know it or not, it's hard for defensive linemen to feel each other's pass rush if there's only one or two of us out there."

That's what head coach Dom Capers loves to hear from a veteran in mid-May.

"The game has changed dramatically. The only way you can develop a cohesive unit is to get this type of work in. Without this work, we'd be doing this in training camp.

"Robaire hasn't been with us before but he's played and he's played extremely well. We know the kind of talent he has. What he has to do is get comfortable with our terminology and our system."

Ditto for Wade, who carded 63 starts at right tackle in Miami's man blocking scheme but now finds himself immersed in a zone blocking system.

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"I'm trying to get this offense down," Wade said. "It's been a little shaky going from a man running offense to a zone. It's all zone, whereas in Miami it was a lot more man -- we might have had one zone play.

"But it's progressing pretty well. In a week or so, I should have everything down."

At 6-8, Wade is the tallest Texan but he knows he has to be quick on his feet to thrive in this offense.

"Getting the steps down is the most important thing," he said. "You really don't need to be very heavy. I enjoy it a lot, it's the same running offense that Denver runs."

They may just be getting their sea legs right now, but it's obvious after just two practices that signing Smith and Wade has bolstered both sides of Houston's line. Then again, that's the idea.

"I can't wait," Smith said. "I feel have a lot to prove this year to a lot of people around the league – and to myself."




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