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Houston Texans

Defensive backs impress in Shrine practices


A rash of injuries to the Texans' secondary last season has made bolstering the unit among the team's primary concerns heading into 2008.

Texans scouts and personnel, including general manager Rick Smith, have been paying close attention to players in the defensive backfield this week during East/West Shrine Game practices at the Methodist Training Facility across from Reliant Stadium.

Notable secondary players in the Shrine Game include Boston College safety Jamie Silva, San Jose St. cornerback Dwight Lowery, Virginia Tech safety D.J. Parker, South Florida cornerback Trae Williams, Arizona St. cornerback Justin Tryon and UCLA safety Dennis Keyes.

Six of the 17 players the Texans placed on injured reserve this season came from the secondary, including starting safeties Glenn Earl and Jason Simmons and star cornerback Dunta Robinson.

Robinson, who suffered both a torn ACL and hamstring in Week 9 at Oakland, is not expected to return until midway through the 2008 season.

"You've got to make sure you have guys that can cover (the defensive backfield)," Smith said after the season. "Knowing that (Robinson) won't be back until the middle part of the season is a concern."

{QUOTE}Finding talent in the draft is a lengthy process that includes evaluation of college tape, spring all-star game (like the Shrine Game) performances and one-on-one interviews.

"There are some physical things that you look for, as well as some aptitude things," Smith said. "The critical piece is the way a guy plays football. What's his football character? Is he passionate about the game? Is his approach to the game one that carries over onto the field?"

At Shrine Game practices this week, scouts have an opportunity to gauge a player's attitude in impromptu interviews on the field after practice or at team hotels in the evenings.

"While walking of the field and at night in the hotel, a lot of scouts have been coming up and talking to us," Silva said. "It's cool to get to talk to all the teams.

"They say it's basically like a job interview. They don't talk too much about football. It's more about getting to know our personalities and our backgrounds."

Players eagerly hope to use these interviews and their performances against top-flight talent to show that their successful college careers will translate into NFL success.

Silva, who was named first-team Walter Camp and AP All-America this season after leading BC with 115 tackles and six interceptions, is a bit undersized at 5-11, 210 pounds, but has impressed onlookers with several interceptions in East squad practices.

"Today, I was able to make some big plays and cause some turnovers," said Silva, who has come up with several interceptions this week. "Hopefully, I have opened some eyes."

Virginia Tech's Parker, 6-0, 198, has shown great range in tracking down deep throws from seemingly out of nowhere.

"The defense is flying around," Parker said. "I had a good day. I had an interception in seven-on-seven and broke up a couple of good passes.

"There's a lot of competition out here, but competition is good because it pushes me."

Another player coming up with several big plays this week is Lowery, who was a two-time AFCA All-America despite spending his collegiate career in the oft-overlooked Western Athletic Conference.

Like most Shrine Game participants, Lowery feels he still has something to prove to scouts.

"Every time you step on the field you have something to prove," Lowery said.

"I most want to prove that I am a consistent football player and that I can establish myself as someone who will be playing for a long time."

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