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Mini-camp report: Day 3


The Texans wrapped up their three-day mini-camp on Wednesday and will be off until training camp begins on July 31. Their rookies plan to use that time to study the playbook and improve their conditioning, especially running back Jeremiah Johnson, who missed OTAs because of his college schedule.

Rookie backs looking to be the answer: There still are a lot of question marks surrounding who will be "the" running back to complement starter Steve Slaton. Veterans Ryan Moats and Chris Brown top the list, but undrafted rookie free agents Arian Foster and Jeremiah Johnson are looking to make their case.

They will get that chance in training camp when the players put on pads and starting hitting each other. Both backs have the size to succeed in third-down situations. Foster is 6-1, 215 and Johnson is 5-9, 210. But they must prove they have the speed and durability to play in the NFL.

"When you look at the young guys, I think it's really going to be important who kind of stands out," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "Because it's going to be so competitive, Jeremiah has to get going right now. But we'll have to see. Obviously, we entered the draft and we did not draft a back, but I think we've got some good guys in there."

Johnson missed OTAs because of Oregon's late graduation date and entered mini-camp slightly out of shape and less prepared than the other backs. It does not help that has a history of injury problems, suffering a torn right ACL and a dislocated shoulder in college. But he played in every game in 2008 en route to second-team All-Pac 10 honors, gaining 1,201 rushing yards, scoring 13 touchdowns and averaging an outstanding 7.1 yards per carry.

"He's got good foot quickness," Kubiak said. "He's a little overweight; I'd like to see him play about 10 pounds lighter.

"But when you average seven yards a carry in that conference, you're a pretty good football player. So hopefully, his shoulder holds up and we go to work and see how he does."

{QUOTE}Foster has shown marked improvement since OTAs began. He left Tennessee ranking second in school history in career rushing yards with 2,394 and as the Vols' all-time leader with 650 rushing attempts. His last year was spotty, as he finished with 131 carries for 570 yards rushing, but he believes he has the speed and hands to excel in the Texans' system.

"They are a one-cut system; I'm a one-cut back," Foster said. "I'm big. I've got hands out of the backfield, and they utilize their running backs out of the backfield.

"Coming out as an undrafted rookie free agent – I had a second-round grade in college as a junior – I am just hungry. I feel like I deserve to be in this league. I am going to work every day to prove myself."

Cush on his game: It's hard for linebacker Brian Cushing to relax. As director of college scouting Dale Strahm said, "He's very intense (even) when he's eating his breakfast."

Strahm is right about that, but Cushing most likely doesn't pound Cheerios in the morning. The first-round draft pick adheres to a strict diet and eats portioned meals from My Fit Foods, a food delivery system. Cushing typically receives six meals a day for a total of 6,000 to 7,000 calories.

The nutritional system seems to be working, since the USC product has been tearing it up on the field during OTAs and mini-camp as the starting strongside linebacker. Cushing is very hard on himself, but he admitted that he was pleased with his first month as a Texan.

"I know my role," he said. "They understand me; I understand they brought me to come in and play right away. That's something I'm expecting to do. I've been playing this game for a while now. I've done a pretty good job and I just hope to keep it up."

Hill inks his deal: Tight end Anthony Hill, a fourth-round draft pick, became the third rookie to sign with the Texans. The 6-6, 269-pound Hill was selected out of North Carolina State to be a blocking tight end, but he has impressed Kubiak with his hands.

"He's caught the ball really well," Kubiak said. "I think that's kind of been a surprise for us. He knows what he is doing route-wise. He'll get better just through repetitions and understanding exactly the pro game and that type of thing. I think that's been a bonus. We knew we were getting a physical player, but I think it's been a bonus that he can run routes pretty good."

Quotable: "It's hard to tell, but they all have the ability to run the ball and have the foot quickness. But you find out a lot about backs when you put pads on and start picking up blisters and taking that pounding every day."
- Coach Gary Kubiak on the running backs

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