Notes from the Texans' practice and locker room on Thursday at Reliant Stadium:
With temperatures in the mid-40's and a gusting wind, Thursday's practice was a cold one for the Texans at the Methodist Training Center. Despite that, head coach Gary Kubiak liked what he saw from his team.
"We're flying around, getting our hands on a lot of balls, getting turnovers in practice," Kubiak said. "Our guys are really locked in. I've made it very difficult on them this week and how we're practicing with the noise."
Kubiak expanded on the noise idea, trying to make communicating on offense as difficult as possible.
"I won't even let them huddle without it," Kubiak said. "That makes it very tough, but we're turned in. We understand the challenge ahead of us, but we're working to meet that challenge, so I've been very impressed."
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips agreed, and was glad the chillier weather didn't hinder the way the Texans went about practice.
"I liked our enthusiasm," Phillips said. "You know the weather can't bother you. You've got to do what you do and you've got to do it well and our guys were focused and concentrating on that. It was an important practice for us and I thought, the big practice of the week and I thought we really did well."
Second-rounder Brooks Reed's first start came against Baltimore, and ever since he's been a solid contributor, posting six regular-season sacks along with one last week against Cincinnati. Inside linebacker Brian Cushing remarked on Reed's impact, and lumped him in with defensive end J.J. Watt as far as being a bigtime contributor.
"I think he's really comfortable where he is now and for what he's done coming in as a rookie, him and J.J., they haven't played like rookies," Cushing said. "They really haven't. They've came in, they've played hard, they've played smart, and you couldn't ask for more out of those two guys for what they've done and the impact they've had on this team it's been really big."
Fellow inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans said Reed has matured quite a bit on the field.
"Brooks has grown a lot as a player," Ryans said. "He's grown, he's coming into himself. He's doing a lot, lot better in his coverage, his pass rush. Every week, he continues to get better and Brooks finds a way to make plays for us.
Flacco a threat
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco left the field in Week 6 as the winning quarterback when the Texans fell in Baltimore. He made quite an impression on Houston that day.
"I think he's dang good," Kubiak said. "He's won a lot of football games, and that's the bottom line in this League. Against us, the thing that stood out to me was how he was able to buy himself time."
Kubiak said he's been "impressed" with Flacco since interviewing the former Delaware signal-caller at the NFL Scouting Combine in February of 2008.
Outside linebacker Connor Barwin also believes Flacco has done a good job under center for Baltimore.
"He can throw the ball over the field," Barwin said. "He runs around to make plays so I don't pay attention to too much of the criticism that he gets from the media, but if he does, you know he looks good on tape to me."
Cushing agreed, and quickly dismissed any notion that Flacco is deserving of criticism.
"He's a good player and he's a good quarterback and he's a winner," Cushing said. "He's done it the entire time he's been in the NFL and he's got a lot of big-play ability, too and that's something we obviously have to take care of and be aware of."
"Yeah, it's perfect. I mean he's making plays, he's from Wisconsin, he's white, he drinks more milk than anybody I've ever seen, I mean it's perfect."—Outside linebacker Connor Barwin on if The Milkman is a fitting nickname for defensive end J.J. Watt.
"I feel like I'm an explosive runner. It's the Nike's? It could be the Nike's. It could be the shoes."—Running back Ben Tate on what allows him to have big runs in every game.