Notes from the Texans' practice and locker room on Thursday at Reliant Stadium:
Day of Rest, Part IIFor the second straight day, wide receiver Andre Johnson missed practice. For more on that story, click here.
Fullback James Casey's return from a pectoral injury continues to progress. He played Sunday against the Jaguars, but didn't catch any passes, and wasn't thrown to either. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak is encouraged by Casey's performance this week in practice, and discussed that on Thursday.
"I've still got things I want to do with him that are part of the game plan," Kubiak said. "He's ready to go. He's taking all his reps in practice, but there's a little bit of a limitation for him right now, so I just got to be smart with what I'm doing."
The Texans defense is limiting the opposition to just 189.4 passing yards per game in 2011, and 97.4 rushing yards a contest as well. The stark turnaround has been overseen by coordinator Wade Phillips, who pointed out Thursday that the Texans offense plays a huge role in his unit's success.
"I think a lot of it's certainly our offense controlling the ball that helps us play good defense," Phillips said. "We play great defense when we're watching on the sideline. That's part of it and I think we've played well. We're starting to improve. Our expectations are always high. All our goals this year were to be in the top 10 in everything. I didn't think they were unrealistic and maybe they're not."
Phillips is particularly impressed with what his defensive backfield has been able accomplish as well.
"I think our secondary is playing tremendously well," Phillips said. "You look at the yards per attempt. I look at that. I look at the completion percentage against us, turnovers, interceptions. We're high in all those categories. That means we're playing well in all those categories."
After spending the first five seasons of his career in Cleveland, fullback Lawrence Vickers signed as a free agent this summer with the Texans. This Sunday's matchup with the Browns is a game to which he's looking forward.
"I'm excited about it," Vickers said. "It's a challenge. We're looking forward to going out there, playing our hard-nose football game, but at the same time, I get to see some of my buddies I missed. I spent the last five years with them, so they're excited about it."
Salute to the Military
More than a hundred members of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps attended Wednesday's practice and mingled with the players and coaches when it finished. Sunday's game against Cleveland is Salute to the Military Day. Before the practice, the armed service men and women enjoyed a barbecue lunch in Budweiser Plaza at Reliant Stadium. Linebacker Brian Cushing liked interacting with the troops.
"Oh, it's cool," Cushing said. "It means a lot. You see how many people are out there and just to have the opportunity after practice to sign a couple balls, say hi, take some pictures and just give back to them for all they do. It's something special."
Kubiak's comments dovetailed with what Cushing said.
"It's pretty cool," Kubiak said. "Obviously, the organization does a great job with it from a game standpoint, but our players are excellent in the community and we appreciate everything they do, so it's just great to see them all out here today."
"We're part of the team and we want to hold up our part. Offense is good. Our special teams are playing well. We need to play well too on defense." – Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips on if the mindset of the team is changing.
"I like to drive people into the ground, talk smack and finish them. Really I don't like the people I go against until the clock is over with." – Fullback Lawrence Vickers, describing his style of play.