After leading the Texans to a 16-10 preseason victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, head coach Gary Kubiak met with the media Sunday afternoon to discuss his team's injury situation, the play of his starters in the opener and what he expects in the coming week as the team prepares to host New Orleans on Aug. 22.
Injuries abound: In his postgame comments, Kubiak mentioned that his team "paid a price" in terms of injuries for their victory over the Chiefs. With the revelation Sunday that multiple players would miss the remainder of the preseason and possibly more time, the full calculation of that price became clearer.
Fullback Boomer Grigsby, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in the second half, will likely miss six weeks. Quarterback Rex Grossman, who tweaked his hamstring while rolling out of the pocket on his very first snap in the fourth quarter, is expected to miss 4-5 weeks with a hamstring strain.
Other injuries include Joel Dreessen's hyperextended knee, which should put him out around 2-3 days, and safety Troy Nolan's broken hand. Kubiak expects Dreessen to return in time for the practices against the Saints on Wednesday, but Nolan will undergo surgery on his hand on Monday and will be re-evaluated after that procedure.
The Texans have begun to consider a number of roster moves to account for the extended absences of Grigsby and Grossman. With Grigsby out late in Saturday's game, Kubiak and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had to resort solely to one-back offensive sets, as they did not want to risk an injury to fullback Vonta Leach by re-inserting him into the game.
With Leach the only active fullback on the roster, Kubiak stressed that he'd have to find a replacement before Saturday's game against New Orleans, and he plans to look internally first at tight end James Casey, who has practiced at fullback in various parts of camp. Casey could assume backup fullback duties in addition to his slots at tight end and on special teams.
"He did a lot of good things in the game," Kubiak said of Casey. "He has flexibility in moving around for this football team, so that's a first option and we'll go from there and make that decision."
Adding an extra fullback as a free agent might not be a possibility, because Kubiak indicated that the Texans will need to sign a free agent quarterback this week to assume third-team duties for the rest of the preseason. Kubiak was coy about whether the team would bring on a veteran player or a young quarterback, but he did mention that Alex Brink would be a strong candidate to be that newly signed quarterback. Brink was a seventh-round pick by the Texans in the 2008 draft and spent much of 2008 on the team's practice squad, meaning that he would be familiar with the offense from his first day at camp.
"From a quarterback standpoint, obviously, I'm not going to go into this game with just two quarterbacks," Kubiak said. "We're looking around right now and talked to a few people, so we'll see how that goes."
First team sharp in first game: They may have been missing two of their starters on the offensive line in guard Chester Pitts and center Chris Myers, but the first team offense looked sharp during its quarter of play Saturday. The unit moved the ball effectively in scoring the first points of the game on an efficient 12-play, 94-yard touchdown drive that was capped by running back Chris Brown's 2-yard touchdown run.
"They were going 95 yards in that weather, handling the ball, and making the plays they made," Kubiak said. "I was impressed."
Kubiak singled out guard Kasey Studdard's fumble recovery during the drive as a key play, though the fumble by Chris Brown likely would have been nullified due to a personal foul horse collar tackle penalty on the Chiefs. Still, Kubiak was pleased to see Studdard and fellow reserve Chris White excel in their time with the first team on Saturday.
"I thought that if Chris White and Kasey could continue to play like starters, then (it would be great)," Kubiak said. "They've been given a heck of an opportunity, so I was impressed."
Brownout in KC: The Texans had big hopes for running back Chris Brown after signing him as a free agent in 2008, but a nagging back injury that cost him the entire 2008 season left many wondering what to expect in 2009 from the former Titans standout.
After scoring a touchdown and running strong and fluidly on Saturday, Brown may have put many of those doubts to rest.
"I think it made the whole team feel very good," Kubiak said. "To see him step out there last night and look like that player that we brought in here I think was exciting for all of us."
Brown is as healthy as he's been in a long time, partially due to significant offseason conditioning and training work. Kubiak also added that he'll keep Brown on a lighter practice schedule throughout the rest of camp in order to keep him healthy and sharp.
"I don't think anyone felt worse than Chris Brown did last year," Kubiak said. "He came here to do a job with this team and, naturally, had the back issue. But he came back in the offseason and he really paid a price above and beyond… He wants to finish his career the right way, playing good football."
Notes: Kubiak praised the play of defensive tackle Frank Okam, who turned in a solid effort with three tackles and solid pressure on the quarterback. Okam is part of the mix in the competition for the tackle spot opposite Amobi Okoye….the Texans will host the Saints in a pair of public open practices on Wednesday and Thursday, presented by SportsRadio 610. Gates at the Methodist Training Center will open at 7:30 am, and tickets are still available for free at HoustonTexans.com. For more information on the practices and how to obtain tickets, click here.