At this weekly press conference on Sunday, Texans coach Gary Kubiak said that Mario Williams took a "big step forward" at outside linebacker in the Texans' preseason game against the New Orleans Saints.
Williams, who's transitioning from defensive end, had two solo tackles, a pass defensed and a forced fumble in close to two quarters of action on Saturday night.
"I thought he played really good after I went back and looked at it," Kubiak said. "He doesn't have two or three sacks, which makes it easy to say he was good. But if you watch, he was very disruptive in the pocket.
"They tried to keep a tight end on him a couple of times. He did a good job just throwing him back into (Drew) Brees' hip and pushing the pocket. Played better in space. Just assignment-wise, everything he's doing – (linebackers coach) Reggie (Herring) and (defensive coordinator) Wade (Phillips) are trying to get him settled down in what he's doing. It was just a big step forward.
"I think you'll see him continue to get better. He's really taking to what they're trying to teach him. It is something totally different, but you see it getting better every day."
Kubiak also praised the play of rookie outside linebacker Brooks Reed, who had two sacks and two forced fumbles against the Saints. The second-round draft pick from Arizona will likely get reps with the first-team defense this week.
"(He's) probably the one player right now showing the most vast improvement from day to day, practice to practice, game to game," Kubiak said. "When you coach this guy, the next day, it's fixed. It's really impressive right now. He was very impressive in the football game. Continues to not only be impressive defensively but very impressive for Joe (Marciano). I think he's got a chance to be an excellent special teams player. Big bright spot on the defensive side of the ball last night."
The Texans' biggest injury concerns coming out of the Saints game are rookie wide receiver Lestar Jean (shoulder bruise) and second-year nose tackle Earl Mitchell (knee). Both were being evaluated on Sunday.
With Jean potentially out, Kubiak is concerned about the competition at wide receiver.
"It's so young," Kubiak said. "You usually keep five guys. To sit here and tell you who (numbers) four and five right now, I think it's a big toss-up. I think special teams have a lot to do with it… I think it's wide open... It'll be very competitive here the next two weeks."
One position at which the Texans aren't hurting is running back. Second-year pro Ben Tate was the star of Saturday night's game after missing his entire rookie season with an ankle injury. Starter Arian Foster carved up the Saints for 47 yards and two touchdowns in one quarter, and veteran Derrick Ward (concussion) is expected to return this week.
"It's a nice problem to have," Kubiak said. "It'll work itself out. They're all different. Ward's a bigger, banger type of guy. Tate's got the speed. I liked his protection last night, so I'm just hoping two weeks from now we've got that problem and they're all healthy and ready to go and we find the right way to use 'em. It was very encouraging last night after what we've been through the first two weeks."