On Sunday, head coach Gary Kubiak discussed the Saturday night game against the Chicago Bears, detailing key injuries suffered during the loss but also noting several encouraging performances from his players.
Earl, Horton out for season:The Texans lost two players for the season in Saturday's game against the Chicago Bears with injuries to starting strong safety Glenn Earl and third-string cornerback Jason Horton. Earl suffered a foot injury in the first quarter while making a tackle, the same Lisfranc injury that cornerback Demarcus Faggins had last year. Kubiak said that Earl will undergo surgery Tuesday and that the recovery process is expected to take 9-12 months.
Earl has started in 22 of the last 23 games for the Texans. In 15 starts in 2006, Earl recorded a career-high 70 tackles to go along with two sacks and one interception.
"Glenn was having a fine camp and he was a big part of this football team, so that's a big blow," Kubiak said. "We're losing a good football player. Glenn had really stepped his play up and I thought he was on his way to having a fine year. It's just a very unfortunate situation."
With the injury, Kubiak said that starting free safety C.C. Brown probably will move to strong safety. Meanwhile, Von Hutchins and Jason Simmons will work at free safety, and Dexter McCleon should see more playing time as the team decides on Earl's replacement.
Kubiak also said that general manager Rick Smith is busy scouring the free agent market to see who might be available to contribute to the defense this season. He and Smith already have compiled a list of players and will bring some in to work out as soon as tomorrow.
"We're going to have to find a couple of football players, not just bodies," Kubiak said. "We've got to find some guys to come in here and compete. We'll have to take a hard look at some guys here in the next 24 hours."
Horton also will be placed on injured reserve after fracturing his arm with less than a minute remaining in the game last night. Horton, who was not with an NFL team last year after spending his first two seasons with the Green Bay Packers, was expected to contribute at the left cornerback spot behind Faggins and Jamar Fletcher. His recovery is expected to take 3-6 months.
Kubiak also mentioned that rookie free safety Brandon Harrison had a minor shoulder injury that is being re-evaluated today, and that fullback Jon Abbate could miss some time this week with a strained hamstring.
First-game standouts:Though the first-team offense played only 12 snaps in the game, Kubiak was pleased with their overall execution. The second-team saw extensive action in the game, and Kubiak pointed out tight end Jeb Putzier, rookie wide receiver Jacoby Jones, center Chris White and quarterback Sage Rosenfels as players who performed well on offense.
Kubiak also praised the individual play of cornerback Dunta Robinson, linebacker DeMeco Ryans and defensive end N.D. Kalu. Kubiak said the approach was to work on improving the base defense and being able to pressure the opposing quarterback while still playing zone coverage.
"That was our focus in what we were trying to do," Kubiak said. "I think we bent, but we didn't break. We found ways to get off the field and didn't give up any points. We've got a lot of work to do, but we did do some good things. I think it was a much better outing this year at this time than it was last year."
Kubiak mentioned defensive ends Jason Babin and Earl Cochran, defensive tackle Travis Johnson, and safeties Hutchins and Simmons as reserves who stood out.
"Diled" in:Kubiak noted that rookie linebacker Zac Diles continues to be a surprise for the team. A seventh-round draft pick out of Kansas State, Diles tied linebacker Trent Bray for the team lead with six tackles Saturday night. Diles took 45 snaps at middle linebacker and played well on both defense and special teams.
"He's a very confident young man," Kubiak said of Diles. "He's going to help this team early. He's going to find a way to get on the field. That's just the way he's handling himself, and last night was no surprise – that's the way he's been practicing, doing a heck of a job. He's a dang good football player."
Punters vie for job:One of the more discussed position battles in training camp has been taking place at punter, and the first preseason game was a continuation of that. Texans newcomer Matt Turk had two excellent punts, a booming 58-yarder and another punt that trapped the Bears offense inside its 20-yard line. And while incumbent starter Chad Stanley's first punt pinned the Bears at their five-yard line, he was erratic on his other two punts, especially near the end of the game.
"I know Chad can kick the ball better than he did last night, and he'd be the first one to tell you that," Kubiak said. "When we needed a real big kick at the end of the game to pin them down there, that was not one of the better of his three (punts). But it's a good battle going on.
"We've talked about what they do – one of them (Turk) has got the big leg, one of them (Stanley) has got the consistent leg. But I know this: I know Chad's got to kick the ball better than he did last night to win this job. He knows that, too."
Not game over for Mario yet: Defensive end Mario Williams failed to record a sack or tackle Saturday night, but Kubiak saw some positive signs in the former number-one draft pick's performance.
"I think he was solid," Kubiak said. "There's no tackles there, there's no sacks there, but I was up watching the film with the defense a while ago, and … there's not a lot to show for it, but I thought he was holding the point pretty good. He had a nice pressure one time coming out of the end zone beating a double.
"I think Mario's definitely a better player (than last year). He's coming on. We're all looking for those numbers that say he's coming on, and I think they'll come. I don't think there was anything to be disappointed in last night. I think it was a good outing for him, and he needs to get better next week."