It looks like the Texans will get back two defensive starters on Monday night against the New England Patriots.
Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph and inside linebacker Bradie James are both probable for the game, meaning it's all but a certainly they will play. Joseph has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. James sat out last Sunday, also with a hamstring injury.
"J-Joe should be fine to go," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said on Saturday. "Bradie should be fine to go."
Starting right tackle Derek Newton has been ruled out of Monday's game with a knee injury. He did not practice on Friday or Saturday. Ryan Harris will start in his place for the second consecutive game.
Starting outside linebacker Brooks Reed is out with a groin injury. He should be back by the end of the regular season. Rookie Whitney Mercilus, who had two sacks last week in his first-career start, will start again on Monday.
Tight end Garrett Graham (concussion) and cornerback Alan Ball (foot) are questionable for Monday night. Graham was limited in practice all week and has one more concussion protocol test to pass before he is cleared to play.
Ball did not practice all week.
"He's got a chance (to play)," Kubiak said of Ball. "He worked a little bit with us today. He worked a little bit on Thursday and got a little sore, we pulled him off. Worked a little bit today with the trainers. Alan can play without practicing. He can go play special teams and stuff like that. He can possibly be ready to go; we'll see. If not, Stanford (Routt) is here, and he'll have an opportunity to help us out."
Joseph's return will be critical considering Tom Brady and the Patriots have the NFL's number one offense in scoring and yards.
"It's really big," Kubiak said. "The biggest thing is his confidence coming back. He felt good on Thursday, he's even better yesterday and today even better. We were fortunate to get him the rest last week, and I think not taking those guys on the trip, as hard as that is as a coach – you want all your guys there with their teammates – we just knew that it would do them a lot of good to stay home. We just put them through the ringer from a rehab standpoint. Kap (Texans head athletic trainer Geoff Kaplan) has done a good job of getting these guys back on the field."
James, a 10th-year veteran, is tied for third on the team with 55 tackles. His return gives the Texans strong depth at inside linebacker with the recent strong play of Tim Dobbins, Darryl Sharpton and Barrett Ruud.
"He's very important to the team," Kubiak said. "He's a leader on our football team. He's kind of a rock. He's a class act and very successful in this business. He's helped Sharp, he's helped Dobbins, and the fact that he gets back in the mix frees some guys up for special teams and makes us just more solid. We went to the game last week with seven linebackers, so you're sitting there hanging on. We'll be back to full strength from that standpoint."