Diles looking forward to competition

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For linebacker Zac Diles, minicamps mean a little more this year. The second-year pro has a starting job on the line and this weekend will be his first chance to prove that he deserves it.

"I guess they are calling me the starter right now," Diles said. "But that doesn't mean I have the spot. I have to go and work hard out there and show them I can do it."

Diles spent last season as a reserve strong side linebacker, backing up Danny Clark and Charlie Anderson. When the Texans lost Clark and Anderson during free agency, Diles became the natural choice to join DeMeco Ryans and Morlon Greenwood in the starting lineup.

{QUOTE}To hold on to that spot, Diles will have to compete with the free agents and rookies the Texans acquired in the last few months.

During free agency the team signed Chaun Thompson, a sixth year pro from Cleveland, and Kevin Bentley, who helped take Seattle to the Super Bowl. At 6-2, 255 pounds, Thompson brings a physical presence to the linebacking corps. Bentley adds versatility because he can play the weak and strong side positions and contribute on special teams.

Xavier Adibi, a fourth-round draft pick, will also be added to the mix. Texans' brass think Adibi, who recorded 115 tackles last season for Virginia Tech, could make immediate contributions.

"We talked about it the other day, that one of the things we wanted to do was increase the athleticism at the linebacker position," general manager Rick Smith said. "We really feel like he (Adibi) is an excellent athlete for the position."

Still, Diles is the incumbent. The linebacker challenged Clark and Anderson for starting duties at the end of 2007 and impressed coaches with his contributions on special teams.

Diles said that the year of experience in the Texans' system will give him an advantage going into minicamps, which begin on Friday.

"Coming in as a first-year guy, I wasn't expecting it to be as hard as it was," Diles said. "Now that I have a year under my belt, I understand the formats of things. It shouldn't be as hard as it was last year, but it will still be difficult."

The Texans' rookies will make their first appearance in team workout gear this week, and Diles is looking forward to seeing how they perform on the field.

"I think we have a pretty good draft class coming in here," Diles said. "I didn't even know Steve Slaton was out in the draft this year and we picked him up in the third round.

"The linebacker Xavier Adibi, I remember watching him when he was a freshman in college. And the whole class that we picked, I'm looking forward to seeing them on Thursday."

Diles also vowed not to give the rookie class a tough time. He knows all too well what it's like to go through pro workouts for the first time.

"I'm going to go easy on them because I know how it is," Diles said. "They got it out on me last year. I'm not going to give them the worst of times because I'm still one of the youngest guys."

Click here to learn more about minicamps from linebacker Zac Diles in Tuesday's "Texans Today" podcast.

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