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Houston Texans

OTAs practice report: Day 9


The deepest position for the Texans during OTAs is proving to be linebacker, where the team is carrying 10 players, including two Pro Bowlers. Coach Gary Kubiak said he will have to cut at least one linebacker before training camp, and the competition at the spot already has become intense.

Competition on for LBs: The Texans have 10 linebackers on their roster, one more than they normally carry, to have more bodies on the field during OTAs as Zac Diles returns from a season-ending leg injury. One linebacker will have to go before training camp, and the competition is heating up at the position.

"Our team is going to be tough to make it at that spot," coach Gary Kubiak said. "We have 10 guys out there right now; we only go to camp with nine. We're one heavy right now because of Zac. We didn't want to wear Zac out in the OTAs, so we've got to make that decision as we get to camp.

"It will be very competitive. I've seen people keep anywhere from five, six, to seven, and a lot of times that depends on how much special teams they play, and it looks like these guys are going to all play a lot. That should bode well for the team."

The linebackers on the roster are: Diles, Xavier Adibi, Kevin Bentley, Kevis Coley, Cato June, DeMeco Ryans, Chaun Thompson, Brian Cushing, Buster Davis and Toddrick Verdell. The starters have been Ryans in the middle and Cushing at strongside, while Adibi and Diles have been sharing reps on the weakside.

Kubiak still is evaluating which linebackers he wants to line up on third downs.

"Well, obviously Cushing has the ability to do that," Kubiak said. "He's worked with the first group in base and we start him with the second group at nickel just to kind of not throw too much at him too quick, but he's caught up. No doubt in my mind Zac, Xavier can do it; Kevin can do it. In that situation, on third downs, you want your two best athletes out there being able to cover and possibly do some rushing of the passer.

"DeMeco is our leader. He's our leader, and you want him on the field every snap. So we'll see how that works out, but we have more options from the standpoint of guys that are athletic enough to stay out there and cover tight ends and good backs in this league in those type of situations."

The key for earning a roster spot as reserve linebacker will be special teams play. Bentley has been a special teams standout and most likely will back up Ryans. June, a Pro Bowler with the Colts, also will have to play special teams to make the cut.

"Yeah, he is going to have to," Kubiak said of June. "I know he's a veteran, but we've told him that. We discussed that with him coming in here. It's something he's going to have to be a part of. Any time if you're not a starter, if he doesn't end up being a starter in the linebacking crew, you're going to have to play special teams on a football team. He understands that."

Diles close to 100 percent: It's been almost seven months since Diles broke his leg in a freak accident during practice. The injury cut short his season and threatened to sideline him during OTAs, but Diles hasn't missed a day of practice and has been getting reps with the first team.

Dile was limited in some drills during the first few weeks, but the trainers have turned him loose and he's nearly full speed.

"I think he's very close," Kubiak said. "I don't think he's totally back yet, but that's just a matter of reps and getting his confidence back, and that takes some time. But he's obviously ahead of schedule from where they thought he'd be."

{QUOTE}DelJuan could be a surprise starter: Defensive tackle DelJuan Robinson has been starting for an injured Travis Johnson during OTAs, and he might find himself in that position for the rest of the year.

Robinson has endeared himself to coaches with his work ethic and taken advantage of his opportunities on the field, recording three tackles for a loss on 18 snaps in the Texans' victory over the Titans last season.

"He's a great example of a guy who's earned a chance to play," Kubiak said. "He got some opportunities last year. He played his biggest game against Tennessee, which says a lot about a player when they play their best in the big spotlight.

"He's been a starter since he walked on the field in OTAs, and he's going to be tough to get out of there. He's earned the right, and players respect him and they count on him. I think that's what the game's all about."

Quotable: "I like to try to be around the ball. Good things happen when you're around the ball. You get tipped balls, you get fumbles, fumble recoveries. You get interceptions. So I pride myself on trying to be in good enough shape to where I can run to where the ball is, and when I get opportunities, I try to make the best of them."
- Cornerback Glover Quin

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