In a disappointing loss, the play of running back Steve Slaton was a bright spot in the eyes of Texans coach Gary Kubiak.
A day after the Texans lost 38-14 to the New Orleans Saints, head coach Gary Kubiak met with the media to discuss his team's injury situation, his disappointments from the game and several players who stood out on tape.
Several players ready to return:Cornerback Antwaun Molden (ankle) and starting left guard Chester Pitts (shoulder) should return to full duty this week. Both could play on Aug. 31 against the Minnesota Vikings, depending on how they respond to practicing. Pitts has been limited all preseason, while Molden practiced last week for the first time in nine months.
Starting center Chris Myers (high-ankle sprain) and defensive tackle Travis Johnson (sports hernia) are ready to get back on the field on a limited basis. They will be put on a similar schedule, participating in certain portions of practice and then being evaluated afterward.
First-round draft pick Brian Cushing will start to do drill work after practice this week with linebackers coach Johnny Holland. He will not participate in practice yet. Kubiak called it a "far reach" to say that Cushing would play against the Vikings.
"We're kind of listening to him right now," Kubiak said. "We're hoping by the middle or the end of the week that he is ready to consistently work in drills."
Injury roundup:Second-string right tackle Cliff Washburn suffered the Texans' most significant injury against the Saints, a strained left calf that could cause him to miss the rest of the preseason.
Jason Watkins and Brandon Torrey could take Washburn's place on the second team, or other linemen could be moved outside to add depth at tackle.
"We've got a tough decision there to make and some adjusting to do," Kubiak said.
Defensive end Tim Bulman and tight end Joel Dreessen are both day-to-day with quad injuries. Bulman has been dealing with his injury for the last two weeks and will be held out of two days of practice this week. Dreessen should be able to practice on Monday.
Not physical enough:The Saints had their way with the Texans' defense, especially on the ground, where they averaged 6.8 yards per carry en route to 173 rushing yards. New Orleans had 120 rushing yards in the first half alone.
"Bottom line, we weren't physical enough," Kubiak said. "We were very, very poor against the run. There were some missed assignments that also led to that. It's not the group that I've seen practice the last two weeks, so it's disappointing as we try to move forward here and move onto this week. We took a step backward last night."
Aside from the play of linebacker DeMeco Ryans, Kubiak said it was hard to find any positives from the defense's performance. The Texans will have a chance to rebound on *Monday Night Football *against the Vikings, who had the No. 5 rushing offense and No. 1 rushing defense in the league last season.
"Thor" making waves:Rookie tight end James Casey continues to impress Texans coaches with his versatility and play-making skills. He caught two passes for 28 yards against the Saints and withstood several big hits during the game. But Kubiak is most excited about how Casey has been playing on special teams.
"We've got a lot of confidence in him," Kubiak said. "This young man probably got as many corrections in his special teams meetings the first two weeks of camp that I've ever seen, and he has responded and done well and is carrying his own right now. So he is impressing his teammates with how he's going about his business."
Casey also got reps as the lead-blocking fullback in short-yardage situations on Saturday.
"He's doing pretty good (as a blocker)," Kubiak said. "On third-and-one on the goal line, he had a poor play there, but he's shown the willingness to get in there and compete and do the job at the point of attack for a guy who's never done it, for basically a wideout in college. He's very flexible in what he can do."
Martinez making a case:In his opening remarks on Sunday, Kubiak singled out wide receiver Glenn Martinez as a bright spot for the second unit. Martinez led the Texans with four catches for 45 yards last night. He leads the team with five catches for 66 yards through two preseason games.
"I really like some of the things I saw (Martinez) do here the first two weeks, not only offensively but on special teams," Kubiak said.
Martinez has had success as a punt returner during his four-year career. He is not practice squad eligible, so he'll have impress Kubiak enough over the next two weeks to earn a spot on the 53-man roster if he wants to stick around in Houston.
Schaub, Slaton impress:While the defense struggled against New Orleans, the first-team offense has thrived in the first two games.
Quarterback Matt Schaub completed 11-of-16 passes for 97 yards against the Saints. In two-and-a-half quarters of action this preseason, he is 18-of-23 (78.3 percent) for 167 yards. He has led the Texans on 73- and 94-yard touchdown drives.
"He's played very, very well," Kubiak said. "He's throwing the ball well. He has a great feel for the rush that's going on around him. Last night, New Orleans came after him some, so it's good for him to see some blitz. But he's on his game. He's had a good camp. He's doing all the things he's done and doing them better right now."
Running back Steve Slaton had six carries for 30 yards against New Orleans. He excelled in short-yardage situations, picking up seven yards on a second-and-one and getting nine yards on a carry up the middle in the red zone.
"We challenged him to get better at some of the phases of the game, and I like the way he responded," Kubiak said. "If (Saturday) night was opening day, Steve's ready to go. He played very, very well."