Coming off of a four-day weekend, the Texans spoke to the media on Tuesday following Day 5 of OTA practices.
Head coach Gary Kubiak
(on S Brandon Mitchell and S Brandon Harrison) "Both are sharper players than they were a year ago. What I mean by that is you can see them out here competing physically because they're not having to think so much. So that gets them in the mix. Our safety group's a real strong, veteran group right now. It's going to be a tough football team to make back there as a safety. For those two kids to have that chance, they have to get better mentally, and they've done that. So they've positioned themselves. They're ready to go to camp."
(on giving a player a year to develop on the practice squad) "It helps a great deal. Basically, you're giving a kid a free year. You say, 'Hey, you're on the practice squad, now you make of it what you want.' There's no babysitting. What you'll find out as a coach is some guys will take full advantage of it, and they'll come back this year ready to make this team. And you'll find out real quick if they didn't take advantage of it. So I think (Mitchell) is a kid who's (taken advantage of it)."
(on the team's injury situation) "We're fine. We have a lot of guys nicked and missing some time. Chester (Pitts) has missed some time. Jordan Black has missed some time. Other than that, we have a bunch of offseason guys that have missed time. But I think that's a great advantage to these young kids because they're getting so many reps. Kasey Studdard probably had 200-some reps at guard in the last three practices that Chester has missed. So we're going to be a better football team when Kasey Studdard's a better player. So we'll get those guys well, but I just like the way these young guys are taking advantage of their opportunities."
(on quarterback Matt Schaub's performance during OTA's) "Matt is Matt. He was just as good last year as he is this year. He's sharp. He knows what he's doing. He's more familiar with this football team. I see him taking even more of a leadership role because he's so much more comfortable with what he's doing."
(on guard Chester Pitts) "He's just nicked. His shoulders have been sore. We thought he'd be back out here today. He lifted this morning and didn't feel well, so we just held him out. But we'll get him back when he's healthy. It's great work for (Kasey) Studdard, (Chris) White and (Mike) Brisiel. Those guys are young players and they need it."
(on cornerback Fred Bennett) "Fred practiced today…It looked like he held up well. We had them all back today. (Xavier) Adibi was back, Fred (Bennett) was back, so we got a few guys back today."
(on players returning from Memorial Day weekend) "I think everybody had a good time over the weekend. That was obvious. It took us a while to get going, but I think we practiced good. It's a push. It's 14 days of pushing through and trying to get better, and we're doing that. We're right in the middle of it now, so we'll keep pushing."
(on the Texans' depth at guard) "I would say it's a concern right now, because Fred (Weary) is not out here, Brandon Frye is not out here, (Charles) Spencer is not cut loose. Now if those three players are on the field, you say, 'Boy, it's a crowded group. It's going to be a tough situation for someone to make the team.' But we've got to get those guys back. So right now it's very thin at practice, but that's going to be to the big benefit of (Mike) Brisiel and (Kasey) Studdard, when it's all said and done."
WR Jacoby Jones
(on WR Andre Johnson being out) "It's (a shame) that he is out, but it is a good thing that I can get more reps and I can show them that I'm getting better and I know the playbook, as well."
(on how things have changed from his rookie season) "I'm more comfortable. I know how to practice now, and the game's a lot slower than when I first walked in the door."
(on if he is trying to be more than a deep threat) "Hey, I'm trying to be all-around. Whatever they want to put me at, in the offense, special teams, I just want to touch the field. I'm back to that reality."
(on how QB Matt Schaub is different from last year) "Well, I wouldn't say different, but I know he's healthy. He wasn't really healthy last year. But he's a fluid guy, man. Matt's good. I'm comfortable with him, Sage (Rosenfels), all the quarterbacks."
(on knowing how to practice) "I mean, coming in as a rookie, you go 100 miles per hour. In certain things you can just go hard, but then you've got to pace yourself or you'll kill yourself."
LB DeMeco Ryans
(on the linebackers' "swoop" cheer) "That is our playmaker breakdown. Every day we break it down on playmakers because, as linebackers, we feel like we have to be big-time playmakers out there on the field."
(on his goals for the season) "I want to improve my game, but it's definitely not all about me. I want to improve all the guys around me. If I can do that and make everyone else better, I feel like we can have our goal of being a playoff team this year and that's what we are definitely looking forward to. We are just working right now, grinding and going through the grinding phase to get to where we want to be."
(on the direction of the defense) "I like the direction of where we are headed. We are in a really good direction. Like you said, we simplify a lot of things. We're getting a lot better. We can see that, just in the meetings or out here practicing, guys are getting a lot better and a lot more detailed in what we are doing."
(on the progress of DT Amobi Okoye) "Amobi will be ready this year. He'll step up and he'll play a lot. He had a lot on his shoulders last year, coming in. I think he tried to do a little too much, and we have a lot of guys on our defensive line rotating in and out so he doesn't have to do as much. He can go in and work and get somebody to come in and work for him. Keeping fresh guys in there is going to help him out and help the whole defensive line out a lot."
(on if the defense will need to put more pressure on the quarterback with CB Dunta Robinson out of the lineup) "We are definitely looking forward to getting pressure with Dunta out or in. We are looking forward to getting pressure on the quarterback, creating sacks and causing turnovers. If we are putting pressure on the quarterback and making them make erratic throws, then we'll get picks in the back end."
(on LB Zac Diles) "Zac's doing good. It's a different role for him, a different position. He had to come in and learn a different position, which is kind of difficult. In our linebacker group, you have to be able to play all three positions because you never know how many linebackers you are going to take in the game. You have to be able to play all three positions. All of the guys are learning two positions, which makes them more versatile and makes us more deep as a unit. All of us are the same body type, so we don't have a prototypical SAM linebacker. All of us can run and are athletic guys."
(on what the defense must do to take the next step) "For us to be better, we have to get more turnovers on defense. It's something that we have been trying to improve on. We have been harping on getting turnovers. When you get turnovers, that wins a lot of games for you. You give the offense a short field, letting them work to put points on the board. If we can do that and do it every game consistently, then we'll be a better defense."
(on the importance of the pass rush) "We're working on that more as a linebacker group. On the blitz, we are working on our pass rush a lot more. We're just cutting things down to where we get good at certain things. With our defensive line, Mario (Williams) is definitely getting better, coming off the ball a lot better. They're going to have to put two on Mario, so that's going to open up somebody else on the other side."
(on missing CB Dunta Robinson) "It hurts not having Dunta out there as out leader, but we have guys. Fred (Bennett) is stepping up. We have (Will) Demps and C.C. (Brown) back there. They are guys that definitely stepped up in the back end."
(on how improving the pass rush will help the secondary) "It's definitely going to help them out. If we get pressure, like I said, it's going to cause the quarterback to make some throws that he doesn't want to make. In that case, you have guys getting interceptions in the backend or breaking passes up."
QB Matt Schaub
(on if he feels good physically) "Yeah, I feel great. It's good to be out here and working with the guys. Everything feels fine. It'll be another story once we start hitting and I get to land on it and just test it out that way, but by then with rehab and the rest of the summer, it should be fine."
(on what he wants to progress in this year) "Just more growth. Just keep going in the right direction. Getting more in depth in the offense, understand what the coaches are looking for from me. Just being out there on the field playing consistent and down to down, just being on top of things."
(on if he feels more confident with a year under his belt) "Yeah, I'd say so. You get more comfortable from year one to year two. That's when you make the biggest jump in any system, and so to be out here working with the guys and getting more familiar with things and getting used to them, it's just going to help this next year."
(on if it helped him gain confidence in other receivers when WR Andre Johnson missed time last season) "Well, you never want to say that an injury helped you do that, but yes. For the other guys we counted on like André Davis and Jacoby (Jones) to step in there and have to play well for us and David Anderson when he got back with us, to see what they could do, they really rose to the occasion and played well, so that gave us confidence."
(on if he looks forward to possibly being healthy along with Johnson and RB Ahman Green) "Definitely. Any time you're at full strength, you have your full complement of guys and full arsenal of weapons, anything can be possible. If we're all healthy and playing well and everything's clicking, we'll be hard to stop."
(on if he, Green and Johnson discuss what could have been last season) "We don't like to look in the past and look back and talk about things that have already happened. We just talk about what we can do in the future and what we're looking forward to get done this season, so that's what we're concentrating on and just working out here to get better and improve our game."
(on how hard it is to get in a rhythm offensively while rotating running backs) "I don't think it's too hard because (in) our running game, you should be able to plug anyone in there and the holes should be there and they should just all run the same. Some guys have a little more burst, obviously, and have a different running style, but otherwise, things are still the same. So no matter who we put in there, we have confidence in all of them that they can go in there and do the job."
(on if there is a heated competition at running back) "I think there's always competition, but very rarely do you have one running back that can go the whole season every down and be the guy. So we're going to do it by committee, and those guys have there hands in and we're all ready to go."
(on WR Jacoby Jones) "Jacoby's made a huge step. He's more mature. He's more comfortable in the system and knowing what his route adjustments are and what his footwork is and his splits and just everything. Last year, his head was spinning a little bit like any rookie's would be, but he's really on top of his stuff and he's catching the ball. He's confident in what he's doing and having a great camp."
(on if WR Jacoby Jones is more than a deep threat) "Oh, definitely. He's more than just a deep threat. He's got fast-twitch muscles and he can stop on a dime; he can come out of his breaks and he can catch the ball. He's got a lot of athleticism."
(on working with assistant head coach/offense Alex Gibbs) "It's been great. I was with him for a few years there in Atlanta, so I know his coaching style, know what he expects and so it's just been great to have him out here, a familiar voice from my past."
(on if Gibbs is like a "mad scientist") "I can see that. That's actually a pretty good analogy. He is. But the thing is, he's not cooking up new stuff. He just keeps re-cooking his old formulas up and they keep working, so everyone's buying into it and we're getting some production.
(on what makes Gibbs special) "Just his drive to exceed. And he goes to a new team and he wants them to implement the system and has proven it over the test of time and everyone just knows that, so everyone just buys into it. He just goes from place to place and it works, so everyone seems to buy into the program."