Gary Kubiak will lead the Texans toward a season filled with playoff aspirations beginning tomorrow on the first day of training camp.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak addressed the media on Thursday at Reliant Stadium. The fourth-year head coach discussed his team's playoff aspirations as well as injury and contract issues.
Three to PUP:Three Texans players will be on the Active Physically Unable to Perform list when training camp begins tomorrow: cornerback Antwaun Molden, defensive tackle Travis Johnson and rookie tight end Anthony Hill, who has a hamstring issue. Molden was one of the Texans' top special teams players as a rookie but is still recovering from an ankle injury that he suffered late in the season.
"We think he's a few weeks away, so he will not be out there," Kubiak said. "We'll work with him away from the team atmosphere and work with him individually, but we think he's getting very close."
A player on the Active PUP list takes up a roster spot and can be removed from the PUP list at any time. Players can remain on the Active PUP until the NFL deadline for the second roster deduction on Sept. 5, the day after the Texans' preseason finale against the Bucs.
Rookie center Antoine Caldwell and running back Jeremiah Johnson should be healthy for camp, according to Kubiak. Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye passed his physical but will be limited at the onset of camp. He had arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason. Kubiak also said that Zac Diles, expected to compete for the starting weakside linebacker position, appears to be 100 percent and ready to go tomorrow.
Zgonina deal in the works:With depth a concern at defensive tackle, the Texans are in discussions to re-sign 15-year veteran Jeff Zgonina. A college roommate of general manager Rick Smith at Purdue, Zgonina played in all 32 of the Texans' games in 2007-08.
"I am concerned, as we go into practice, with me trying to protect Amobi a little bit; I would like to keep [Shaun] Cody off the turf; Travis is not going to work for a period of time," Kubiak said. "So there is some discussion right now, and hopefully we can get that done in bringing Jeff back as part of our football team."
Contract chatter:Pro Bowl tight end Owen Daniels did not report to the Texans' mandatory mini-camp in June after signing his one-year restricted free agent tender. Kubiak expects Daniels to be at the first training camp practice on Friday since Daniels is under contract.
Dunta Robinson, who has yet to sign his franchise tender offer, might be another story. The cornerback sat out all of the team's offseason workouts, including OTAs and mini-camp.
"All indications are to me that he probably won't (be here tomorrow)," Kubiak said. "Until he's under contract and here with this football team, it's very difficult to comment one way or the other. It's something our team has dealt with all off-season so it won't be a surprise to us one way or another tomorrow."
Lighter two-a-days:Instead of rigorous two-a-days with full practices in the afternoon heat, Kubiak is changing the training camp schedule this year. Full-speed morning practices now will be followed by lighter, walkthrough-like afternoon sessions inside the Methodist Training Center practice bubble.
Defensive identity:Training camp will mark the public debut of new coordinator Frank Bush's defense, but Kubiak said it's too early to put a stamp on what kind of defense fans will see. Bush first has to continue teaching his base defense while plugging new players into the lineup including Antonio Smith, Brian Cushing, Shaun Cody and Connor Barwin.
"I think our defense has got to find an identity," Kubiak said. "We have played a lot of football players on defense in the past few years compared to what we've done offensively. I think us locking in on the 11 that are going to make us as good as we can be is the most important thing."
Playoffs or bust:Earlier on Thursday, fullback Vonta Leach said that the Texans' mindset this year was "Playoffs or Bust." Several other players, including Andre Johnson and Chester Pitts, have expressed a similar mentality this offseason.
"I like to see our players thinking that way, but I also know what type of work it takes to get to that point," Kubiak said. "So I've got to keep them focused on that work."
To reach the team's goal of making the playoffs, Kubiak said that the Texans must improve on turnovers and red zone efficiency on both sides of the ball. Getting off to a good start to the season and finding continuity on defense also will be critical to the team's success.
"It's July right now… we'll walk out on that football field tomorrow with (the playoffs) as a team goal," Kubiak said. "But we have to be realistic in our approach and understanding that it's about the day-to-day process. You can't get that done in one day, one week or one month. We've got to worry about our football team getting better, and if we do that, then we'll give ourselves an opportunity to do that."