The Texans are mostly in good health heading into their Wild Card playoff game at Reliant Stadium on Saturday with the Cincinnati Bengals, but their depth at inside linebacker is precariously thin.
Darryl Sharpton was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday with a hip injury. Tim Dobbins, a special teams captain who would likely start in Sharpton's place next to Bradie James, did not practice on Wednesday because of an ankle injury. Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Dobbins will be a game-time decision.
That leaves eighth-year veteran Barrett Ruud as the presumptive starter on Saturday pending improvement by Dobbins. Ruud was signed Oct. 10, the same day Brian Cushing was placed on injured reserve. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers captain played in nine games for the Texans this season with one start, recording 12 tackles and a sack.
"Barrett is a veteran player who has been in this league for a while," Kubiak said on Wednesday. "He's been in different types of schemes. He was a big Tampa 2 'Mike' linebacker for a long time, but he's picked up on what we're doing. He's very smart. He has played quite a bit since he got here, and obviously he played a lot last week with the situation that we got in. We've got a lot of confidence in him, and I don't think anything is too big for him. He's played in a lot of football games."
The Texans re-signed second-year inside linebacker Mister Alexander on Tuesday, but his role Saturday likely will be relegated to special teams. Backup outside linebacker Jesse Nading has experience on the inside.
Texans outside linebacker Brooks Reed and cornerback Alan Ball both appear to be on track to play on Saturday. Reed, who missed four of the last five games of the season with a groin injury, and Ball, who missed the last five games with a foot injury, were limited in practice on Wednesday.
Aside from Dobbins, Antoine Caldwell was the only Texans player not to practice on Wednesday. Caldwell, who is now third on the depth chart at right guard behind rookies Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks, has a back injury.