Practice insider - Saturday

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Defensive tackle Travis Johnson fought hard during the preseason to earn a starting spot.



20 down, 2 to go: Texans head coach Gary Kubiak held practice Saturday 20 men lighter. On Friday, he released center Drew Hodgdon, guard Mike Brisiel, wide receiver Bethel Johnson, fullback Jon Abbate, quarterback Jared Zabransky, running back Darius Walker, tackle Brandon Frye, wide receiver Keenan McCardell, running back Wali Lundy, wide receiver David Anderson, defensive end Alfred Malone, defensive end DelJuan Robinson, defensive end Victor Degrate, linebacker Trent Bray, free safety Brandon Mitchell, free safety John Walker, cornerback Tyrone Poole, cornerback Dexter McCleon, defensive tackle Tim Bulman and punter Chad Stanley.

The cuts, however, will keep on coming. Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith must release two additional players in order to get the roster down to the NFL-required 53 players.

"It's probably going to involve one offensive player and one defensive player," Kubiak said. "That's about as far as I can go with you. We have a couple of issues to solve as coaches as we continue to look at our roster and we look at game day, how we would go on game day. We continue to talk to a couple people around the league about a few situations. We'll get it done by 5:00 p.m."

The coach will announce the practice squad members on Sunday.


Trade talk: Kubiak's reference to "talking" to people around the league prompted the media to ask able possible trade situations, especially at the safety spot where the Texans lost starter Glenn Earl to a Lisfranc sprain early in the preseason.

"We've gotten a bunch of calls about some of our players and we made a couple of calls on situations we think could help our football team," Kubiak said. "That will go down to the wire, I think, with everybody in the league. So, we'll get back up in the office and see what happens here."

Starters set: The coaching staff did formally announce who won starting spots in several key position battles.

Center Steve McKinney, who can also fill in at the guard spot, beat out last year's starter Mike Flanagan.

"We gave him (McKinney) a chance to go to guard and continued to play that well," Kubiak said. "I should say he went to guard because of our needs as a football team. But, Steve McKinney's earned the right to be a starter, and he'll start for us at center on opening day."

Linebacker Danny Clark climbed his way up the depth chart to win starting duties over Charlie Anderson.

"He (Clark) kept making plays and making plays," Kubiak said. "It wasn't anything that Charlie (Anderson) did, but the kid just kept getting better and better. He's kind of a vocal guy. He's a leader by how he plays the game, how he goes about his business. We feel like he's earned the right to be the starter at SAM."

Defensive tackle Travis Johnson came into Texans camp with something to prove, and he ended up proving he belongs on the first squad. Kubiak said Johnson looked like a different, more improved player from the first day of practice. And he hasn't let down since then.

"I'll tell you all exactly like I told him," Kubiak said. "'I said, 'Travis, you've earned the starters role. There's a new respect around here for you right now and the way you're going about your business and the way you're playing. Don't take it for granted. Let's keep doing it and keep moving forward.'"


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