Kubiak pleased by young backs

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Coach Gary Kubiak has a lot to sort out after Friday's 23-23 loss to the Cowboys. One of the special teams' standouts, receiver Harry Williams, remains in a Dallas hospital with a fracture of his C3 vertebra. By Tuesday, Kubiak must trim five players off the roster. And in the meantime, he needs the defense to find its pass rush.

Williams joined by family: Texans wide receiver Harry Williams injured his neck in the first quarter of Friday's game and immediately was carted off the field and taken to Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Williams was paralyzed on the field but started to regain neurologic function on his way to the hospital.

His family arrived at the hospital on Saturday, and Dr. Drew Dossett, a member of the Cowboys' medical staff, will perform surgery on Williams on Sunday.

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Run game improves: The Texans' running game made huge strides Friday, with strong performances from Steve Slaton and Chris Taylor. The two young backs shared the load because starter Ahman Green was out with a groin injury and veteran Chris Brown was pulled from the lineup at the last minute with a sore back.

"(They) got put in a situation against a dang good football team where they basically were the starters in the game, even though Chris started the game," Kubiak said. "They both rose to the occasion."

Thanks to Slaton and Taylor, the Texans outrushed the Cowboys (114-111), and Kubiak was extremely impressed with the way the backs helped protect the quarterback.

"They played well in protection, which is something we had been concerned about, and Dallas came after us a lot," Kubiak said. "We did not give up a sack, and they ran the ball extremely well and both of them got better as the game went on."

Taylor got the start, leading the team with 11 carries for 47 yards. It was the first time this preseason that the third-year pro consistently moved the chains.

{QUOTE}Just as impressive was Slaton, who rushed for 44 yards on 10 attempts. In the second quarter, the rookie got to the outside corner and blew by the Cowboys' front seven for a 20-yard run. The Texans had wanted to see how Slaton's speed would fare against one of the toughest defenses in the league, and he proved on Friday that he can make plays on NFL starters.

Offense chugs along: For the most part, the Texans offense took care of business against the Cowboys. Quarterback Matt Schaub had shaky start, but he found his rhythm and finished 15-of-26 for 166 yards and a touchdown in three quarters.

Kevin Walter, who has hauled in 12 passes this preseason, led all receivers with six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.

The offensive line didn't allow a sack in the game, as left tackle Duane Brown adapted to the Cowboys' 3-4 defense and fended off right end Chris Canty. The night proved to be an excellent test for Brown, who will face a similar defensive scheme in the first regular season game at Pittsburgh.

"He (Brown) went against a great player last night," Kubiak said. "Early in the game, I think the size of that guy and the speed, that type of scheme, the 3-4, had him a little off whack. I've said this a couple of times when he's played early in games, but as the game went on, he adjusts to the speed of the game, he adjusts to the player he's playing against."

Center Chris Myers continues to be consistent in his blocking, and Kubiak said right tackle Eric Winston played his best game of the preseason. The biggest issue on offense was the inconsistency of guard Kasey Studdard, who started in place of an injured Chester Pitts.

"He's (Studdard) a high effort guy that I always talk to you about," Kubiak said. "He makes some plays that are above and beyond the call of duty, then gets confused and makes some plays that you can't get away with in this league."

Defense almost dismal: Kubiak said after the game that he was disappointed in the Texans' defensive play. He probably would have called the defense down-right dismal, had the team not caused two red zone turnovers.

"Defensively, when I look at the defensive it's hard to find a lot of positives, to be honest with you," Kubiak said. "They moved the ball on us very well. The thing that we did extremely well was get turnovers. It just goes to show in this league if you don't turn it over and you do get some turnovers, you've got a chance to win every game."

The Texans got no pressure on quarterback Tony Romo, letting him sit in the pocket and pick apart the secondary.

"I think that he (Romo) was able to hold the ball too long," Kubiak said. "Various times there were some routes that were completed that aren't fair to the secondary. Those routes belong to the defensive line and the people rushing the passer. We can't give them that kind of time."

Former Cowboy cornerback Jacques Reeves struggled in coverage for the second consecutive game. Reeves led the team in tackles with six, but he kept getting beat on deep passes.

"He was in position again last night for a couple of plays, he was right there," Kubiak said. "He doesn't quite get the ball out. It's something that we are concentrating on him with. I like his effort. I like how he plays. I think he's going to be a fine player for us but right now it seems like a lot of other things are coming his way."

The run defense didn't fare any better, allowing running back Marion Barber III to rack up 75 yards rushing on 13 carries.

Kubiak said the most effective player against the run was defensive end Mario Williams, who fought off double and triple teams to cause a forced fumble and make plays on the ball carrier. The coach also praised linebacker Zac Diles for intercepting Romo early in the second quarter and end N.D. Kalu for being the best finisher in the pass rush.

Injury notes: Wide receiver Andre Johnson returned to the lineup on Friday and will look to get more reps in practice this week. The Pro Bowler felt good after the game but probably will sit out for most of Thursday's contest against Tampa Bay. Running back Ahman Green will be limited in workouts. Guard Chester Pitts (ankle) and running back Chris Brown (back) will be day-to-day.

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