The play of the defensive line and wide receivers headlined head coach Gary Kubiak's Sunday press conference following Houston's 33-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.
Front four at the forefront:Kubiak fielded numerous questions from the media about the play of the defensive line, particularly defensive end Mario Williams. Kubiak detailed the solid play of his team's run defense and said that defensive linemen Travis Johnson and Victor DeGrate had some especially good moments pressuring the passer.
In regards to Williams, Kubiak said that the Texans' coaching staff must help the second-year pro continue to improve as an individual pass rusher by finding new stunts and schemes to free him from opposing left tackles. Kubiak also praised Williams as a force against the run.
"There were a couple of (run) plays coming his way, the fourth down play, where he's not going anywhere," Kubiak said. "He's very disruptive on that side of the ball. But I think everybody looks at sacks. I don't worry as much about sacks as much as I worry about his disruption and his pressure and his presence on the football field, down in and down out.
"You know, (Indianapolis Colts defensive end) Dwight Freeney is one of the best I've ever went against as a coach, and I think he had what last year, five or five-and-a-half sacks? But I can promise you he was there all day long and people had to double him and account for him. That's the kind of player I want (Williams) to become. I want him to become a disruptive player. If we don't get a lot of sacks, then I want him to sure as heck make them get rid of the football.
"I think the kid's playing hard. I think he gets frustrated. He wants to walk in here today and have three sacks and everybody saying great things. But frustration should fuel you to become a better player – that's part of the National Football League."
First-rate secondary: Despite last week's injury losses, the Texans' secondary graded out well on Saturday, according to Kubiak.
"I just think we're getting better back there," Kubiak said. "We've got some guys that can make some plays on the ball."
In particular, Kubiak lauded the ability of his defensive backs to close on the ball and intercept it. The secondary had two interceptions Saturday, with cornerbacks Jamar Fletcher and Dexter Wynn bringing down picks against Arizona.
"When the ball is in their area, they're going to catch it," Kubiak said of his defensive backs. "And the difference between a good corner and a great corner is one that can cover, and not only cover but can also make the interception. There are some guys that are there, but they don't play the ball very well. We've got some ball hawks back there that give us a chance to make some plays if the quarterback makes a mistake." – Will Flaherty
Jones on the rise:Kubiak tabbed Kevin Walter as the solid number two wide receiver on the depth chart, but named rookie Jacoby Jones as number "two-and-a-half."
"He's been playing pretty dang good," Kubiak said of Jones. "We're going to get him on the field somehow, some way. When we play three wides, he's the first one going out there."
Jones' 80-yard punt return touchdown against the Cardinals was number three on ESPN SportsCenter's 'Top 10' plays Saturday night. But it's not just highlight-reel capability that makes Jones special.
"When he makes a mistake, he fixes it, and he'll come back to make the next (play)," Kubiak said. "He's just so confident in what he's doing and boy, he has fun playing."
Another local free agent wideout?Kubiak stated that a maximum of six receivers would make it past the final roster cut, but one of those could potentially be a player currently not even on the team.
The Texans may be interested in wide receiver Robert Ferguson, a Houston native who has played five NFL seasons since starring at Texas A&M. Ferguson recently was released by the Green Bay Packers, the team that selected him in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft. At this point, however, discussions have been preliminary.
"I know that we've talked to him," Kubiak said. "I know he's talking to a lot of people and I know that (general manager) Rick (Smith) has talked to him today. We'll see what happens. He's a talented football player and I'm sure there are a lot of people interested in him."
If he does end up a Texan, Ferguson would join Houston native Keenan McCardell and Corsicana High School and Texas A&M product Bethel Johnson as 2007 free agent wide receiver additions with local roots.
Injury roundup:McCardell has been limited since tweaking his left leg in practice more than a week ago, but the veteran wideout did see his first game action as a Texan against the Cardinals. Kubiak said that McCardell will receive more repetitions this week if he continues to heal.
Meanwhile, Kubiak confirmed that most of the injuries suffered during Saturday's game were minor, but revealed that center Chris White's ankle sprain may be more severe than it initially appeared and will require further evaluation. Kubiak also said that tackle Kevin Barry has a biceps tear that may require surgery.
On the bright side, Kubiak said that x-rays to Jon Abbate's right ankle were negative. Given how serious the injury first seemed, Abbate is lucky to have only a sprained ankle.
"We hope that he'll be back for this week, so that was some very good news," Kubiak said. "He did some good things in the game."