Two games into 2012, the Houston Texans have an NFL-best 76 rushing yards to the right side of the offensive line. 11 carries have gone that way for Houston, and at 6.9 yards a pop, those rushes have been successful. It might seem like a random statistic, but it's incredibly pertinent to those interested in the Texans, who began the campaign with a pair of new starters at right guard and right tackle, with Antoine Caldwell and Derek Newton there respectively.
Newton played all 83 snaps in last week's 20-point victory at Jacksonville, withstanding the heat and humidity that day in north Florida. But Sunday in Denver a whole new challenge awaits in the Mile High City with defensive end Elvis Dumervil and linebacker Von Miller.
"He's going to face the quickest guys he's seen off the ball," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "And he's probably going to be a little late off the ball because of the noise."
So far in 2012, the Dumervil and Miller tandem has a combined 14 tackles, three sacks and eight quarterback hurries. Although Dumervil started at right defensive end Monday night against Atlanta, and Miller was listed as the strongside linebacker, Kubiak pointed out that the two will play at different points on the field.
"Wherever they line up they both line up all over the place," Kubiak said. "We actually let our guys line up offsides in practice."
The speed and athleticism of that duo is not lost on Newton, who ultimately knows that he'll have to continue what has been a solid start to his second season. Plus, he's handled the amped-up pressure in practice in stride, explaining how the 'offside' lineup by his defensive teammates has affected him.
"It hasn't been that bad, but it gets us ready for the game so we got to go with it to prepare for the game," Newton said. "It'll be very helpful for us."
As a whole, Newton's impressed with the Broncos' defense, and believes Dumervil and Miller use quickness and power to make things disruptive for opposing offenses.
"They're a bunch of good guys," Newton said. "I think they use a little bit of both. So, we just got to go out there and play our game."
Newton, who won the right tackle competition with Rashad Butler during training camp, showed improvement from the Miami win to the victory at Jacksonville last Sunday.
"You saw him correct things from week one to two," Kubiak said. "He's a better player, and that's the path we want him on all year long. I just liked his effort. He played 85 plays last week. That's pretty darn good for a guy his second time out."
Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison also liked what he saw from Newton after two weeks of regular season action, but still wants the young lineman to get better.
"From week one to week two it was great, it was vast improvement," Dennison said. "We're hoping he takes steps all along the way."
Kubiak and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips were both asked about Miller this week, and they were very high on the former Aggie prior to the 2011 NFL Draft. Selected second overall after Cam Newton that season, Miller was everything Denver wanted and more. Now, he'll go against a 7th-rounder from the same draft class in Newton, who has turned heads with his improvement, athleticism and ability in the Texans' offense.