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Houston Texans

OTAs practice report: Day 10


Linebacker Brian Cushing has taken off during his first few weeks of OTAs. He's been quick to learn the Texans' schemes, looked fluid in coverage and found a way to showcase a tenacious mentality in non-contact practices.

Cush ready to crush it: The Texans aren't playing in pads yet, but rookie linebacker Brian Cushing already looks like he's going to crush people on the field.

"You just come onto the field and you just try to fly around," Cushing said. "I don't even notice it; I think it's just my demeanor of how I play.

"I've had it for a while now, ever since I've been born. I don't know if it's genetic or where I came from or whatever, but I just know any time I stand on the field, I don't have any friends any more."

That's the type of intensity the team was looking for when they drafted Cushing No. 15 overall. The coaches not only have been impressed with his high motor, they like how he fluidly drops into coverage and can step up against the run.

"He's been excellent," coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's made great progress; he knows what we're doing. He is probably even more of a physical specimen than we thought he was. We knew he was a big, good-looking young man coming out, but to be 258, 260 (pounds) and run like he can run brings another big, physical presence to our defense."

{QUOTE}Ferguson sees a new swagger: Safety Nick Ferguson has seen it all during his 10 years in the league, and right now he detects a new swagger in the Texans' secondary. Breeding that swagger are new defensive coordinator Frank Bush and defensive backs coach David Gibbs.

"Well, the reason I think the secondary is going to be better is for three things," Ferguson said. "Frank Bush is our defensive coordinator. We have David Gibbs as our coach. And the acquisitions we made in the offseason. Antonio Smith will give us some pressure. Hopefully, the quarterbacks throw some balls off the wrong foot and give us an opportunity to get interceptions. And Brian Cushing . He's going to allow us to do so many things with our defense.

"I don't know if we're going to do this, but this personnel allows you to do 4-3 or 3-4 types and really keep the offense guessing. It'd be great for the defensive backfield. We'd have more opportunities for interceptions."

The Texans may not change to a 3-4 scheme, but Bush does want them to play with a mean streak.

"(Bush) used to be a linebacker for the Houston Oilers, and that's how he wants his defense to play," Ferguson said. "He doesn't want anyone on the defense who's not like a nasty guy. And I mean not nasty in the sense that we're going to be taking cheap shots, but just trying to be aggressive and tougher on defense."

Entering his 10th year in the league, Ferguson hasn't lost a step. In fact, running back Steve Slaton has said that Ferguson is one of the hitters he fears most on the team.

"Some of my tackles are really aggressive, physical tackles where you really put your body out," Ferguson said. "But then there's some technically sound tackles that they always try to teach you how to tackle, and I think maybe those kind of tackles have kind of helped me through the NFL over the years."

Brantly getting a look: It's easy to draw comparison between rookie punter Justin Brantly and Shane Lechler, the former Texas A&M and current All-Pro punter for the Raiders who was selected in the fifth round of the 2000 draft.

Brantly's father coached with Lechler's father in high school, and both Brantly and Lechler were Aggie standouts. Brantly never averaged less than 43 yards per punt in four years at A&M. His 45.7-yard average as a senior put him among the national leaders and earned him first-team All-Big 12 honors. But, to the surprise of many scouts, Brantly wasn't drafted.

"We felt like going into the draft, he was a guy that would get drafted as a punter," Kubiak said. "When he didn't - (he's a) local kid here - we get a chance to look at him.

"Will we take two punters to training camp? I don't know. It's hard to do nowadays, but I don't think you ever say never. Especially when he's an Aggie – you've got to give him the benefit of the doubt."

The Texans have been pleased with incumbent punter Matt Turk, who averaged 42.3 yards per punt and hit 17 punts inside the 20 last season.

Turk enters his 14th year in the league, and the Texans have wanted to make sure that he has fresh legs for training camp.

"It just doesn't make a sense for a guy like Matt at this stage in his career to be kicking a bunch of balls every day," Kubiak said. "We know what Matt can do; we know what he's capable of. And he's doing a good job this offseason in our offseason program. It just gave us a little bit of a luxury, since you can have those extra eight guys when the rookies aren't signed."

Odds and ends: Defensive tackle Travis Johnson practiced with the team for the first time since OTAs began.

Also, the Texans have begun practicing with their bullhead logo stitched into the left shoulder of their jerseys. The team plans to sell a patch logo on their practice jerseys and has placed the logo there to show prospective sponsors where the patches would be located. A new NFL rule allows teams to create such partnerships, selling practice jersey patches no larger than 3½-4½ inches.

Quotable: "I had a couple of friends, just not on the field."
- Brian Cushing on his high school days

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