Five things to watch for - Texans vs. Dolphins


Davis, leaping to make a 35-yard touchdown grab against the Falcons, has quickly found a rhythm with quarterback Matt Schaub.

Here are five key players, matchups and things to watch for as the Texans return home to take on the 0-4 Miami Dolphins on Hispanic Heritage Day at Reliant Stadium:

Running first: After topping 100 yards rushing in both of the first two games, the Texans were inconsistent running the ball in weeks three and four. Are the Dolphins the remedy? Miami ranks last in the NFL by a longshot in rushing defense, allowing 199.3 yards per game.

That statistic has been skewed by the absence of middle linebacker Zach Thomas, the Dolphins' tackling machine who missed two games with a concussion but may return on Sunday. Regardless of what happens with Thomas, though, the Texans must correct last week's mistakes to be successful running the ball.

Ahman Green continues to recover from a knee bruise and will be a game-time decision, but head coach Gary Kubiak said that Green practiced much more on Friday than he had all week, which he called "very encouraging."

If Green is unable to play, Ron Dayne will get a chance to improve upon a Georgia Dome performance in which he struggled in short-yardage situations. The 5-10, 245-pound back should be running with a vengeance this week as he looks to return to the form that produced the second-best rushing month in Texans history last season when he totaled 429 yards and five touchdowns in December.

"He looked good," Kubiak said on Friday after a week of emphasizing the run in practice. "(Dayne) had a real good practice yesterday, practiced well today. I'm expecting him to come back and run the football well."

Schaub-André connection: As most observers expected, quarterback Matt Schaub has been filling up the stat sheet with a wide receiver named André this season. But lately, that connection has a little twist to it; or, more aptly, an accent mark. André Davis, not Andre Johnson, has been outstanding the last two weeks in place of the injured Johnson.

Schaub, who finished with a career-high 317 passing yards at Atlanta, has been throwing up jump balls to Davis with full confidence that the sixth-year wideout will bring them down. Davis has rewarded his quarterback's faith with nine receptions, 187 yards and a touchdown since stepping into the lineup in Week 3.

The Dolphins' pass defense ranks second in the league in giving up 145 yards a game, but it has ceded six opposing touchdowns, tied for 10th worst in the NFL. Schaub will look to Davis to exploit Miami with the big play on Sunday.

"He brings a lot of speed and he can make the tough catches down the field, as you've seen the past two weeks," Schaub said. "He can make that tough catch one-on-one with the defensive back."

Petey still the man: There has been talk all week of cornerback Demarcus Faggins possibly losing his starting spot after he was flagged for three costly penalties in the Texans' loss to the Falcons. But Kubiak has stuck by the veteran, who has been with the Texans since the team's inception and has never wavered in his effort and positive attitude under Kubiak.

"Petey's our starter," Kubiak said Wednesday. "I believe in him. He'll be there starting this weekend. He's going to play good; I believe in the kid. He's had a few unfortunate plays, which happens in football if you're a corner. That's part of the business. You've got to have a short memory, so I expect him to come back and play well this week."

Rookie cornerback Fred Bennett, coming off a hamstring injury that's slowed him thus far, has been practicing well this week and should rotate in to spell Faggins at times along with cornerback Jamar Fletcher.

"I'm ready," Bennett said. "I have a lot of confidence in myself. I know my teammates have confidence in me, (and) my coaches. I'm ready at any time."

Slowing down Brown: The Texans' sixth-ranked rush defense faces red-hot running back Ronnie Brown, who has totaled more than 200 yards from scrimmage in two straight games. Only Walter Payton has done that three straight times, but Brown will have a tall order joining Sweetness in that category. The Texans defense has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season, containing the likes of Larry Johnson and Joseph Addai. Bottling up Brown, who has 20 receptions for 248 yards to go along with his 60 carries for 311 yards, will be priority number one on Sunday.

"He's a great player," defensive end Anthony Weaver said. "The thing about him is not only is he a good running back but he's catching balls out of the backfield, too; I think he's their second-leading receiver. So he's a guy that you have to account for on all plays just because he's so multi-talented."

If NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month Amobi Okoye and the rest of the Texans' front seven can contain Brown like they've done with other elite backs this season, it should create more pressure on quarterback Trent Green and more big-play opportunities for the defense.

Taylor not satisfied: Miami defensive end Jason Taylor won NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors last season, totaling 60 tackles, 13.5 sacks, two interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. His defense, under former Texans head coach Dom Capers, finished fourth in the league. That's the kind of success that the five-time Pro Bowler is used to. He's been frustrated with the Dolphins' sluggish start to the season.

"We're letting teams run the ball way too much and then when we do get them in third down, because of their success on first and second down, we're allowing them to have third and three or four or five, which are a lot more manageable than third and long," he said. "So our main focus is stopping the run and we haven't done it for four weeks and we've got to get it corrected this week."

Taylor himself has been off to an uncharacteristically slow start, tallying only one sack through the first four games. Although he's surely intent on improving that total, fullback Vonta Leach feels the Texans are prepared to prevent him from making plays.

"We've just got to come back, our backs have got to help out and chip him before we go out on our pass rush," Leach said. "I think we're going to scheme them pretty good. I think we're going to be alright. Ephraim (Salaam)'s going to do a good job on him, so we're going to be alright."

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