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Practice Insider - Thursday


The Texans defense will have to continue piling on the pressure to beat the Panthers on Sunday.

The Texans continued to battle in the afternoon heat, prepraing for the Panthers' speedy Steve Smith.

No, "I told you so": Texans owner Bob McNair took time to speak to the media during practice. As he looked out as his defensive line huddling up, he smiled. It almost looked like an "I told you so" smile, but Mr. McNair prefers to rise above the fray.

"I haven't had that feeling, but when things are slower developing, when you're slower reaching the goals you want to reach, then sometimes you start wondering when are you going to get there and are we doing the right thing," McNair said. "We thought all along we were doing the right thing, but to see the kind of results and progress that we made is reaffirming the belief that we had the right strategy all along."

Of course, McNair is referencing to defensive end Mario Williams, the 2006 number one draft pick. Williams endured a bumpy first season in the NFL and received constant taunts from the media for not living up to his potential.

The potential was realized and taunting ceased after Williams' break-away performance against Kansas City. In fact, the defensive end was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Week and the AP Player of the Week for collecting two sacks, five tackles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Precisely why McNair is smiling.

"I'm really pleased for Mario," McNair said. "He's worked very hard. He's improved his play. He came in here and he was a little bit lighter. He took a little weight off and he thought he could be faster and quicker, and I think he is. I'm real pleased for Mario."

Bringing up baby: Rookie defensive tackle Amobi Okoye is going through the maturation process that Williams endured last year. Okoye, also drafted in the first round, also possesses the physical prowess to dominate an NFL defense, but he's still got a lot of mental work to do.

"He played like a young kid last week," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "He played in spurts. And the thing about this league is consistency, which we talk about all the time, doing it day in and day out. But he showed a flash, so we just want him to be more consistent in his play. And he's learning to play the run better, so that's important."

Okoye only notched one tackle in the win over the Chiefs, but he was able to plug the gaps, helping to hold Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson to 43 yards rushing.

And that's pretty good for youngest player (20 years, 91 days old ) in NFL history to appear in a game.

The Steve stop: Stopping Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith poses a daunting task for the Texans' newly-acquired secondary. Lucky for the newcomers, safeties Will Demps and Michael Boulware, there are some experienced Texans' backs who will have their back.

"I think the new guys are coming along real good," cornerback Fred Bennett said. "They're learning the defense day-to-day, our coach is doing a great job, our other vets are helping them out as well, so coming along pretty good.

"We just take it day-by-day. I think our coaches are going to put us in the best situations and defense. We've just got to go out there and perform."

Cornerback Demarcus Faggins said a speedy performance will be the second key ingredient to containing Smith.

"He's what, 5'9", like 185, and he plays like he's 6'5", 215," Faggins said. "He's fast, quick, catches the ball, he blocks hard.
"He's all over the field. You've got to be prepared for whatever he brings."

Injury update: Defensive end N.D. Kalu continued to play in a cast… defensive tackle Travis Johnson is still fighting a sore sprained ankle, but got in a few reps during practice...Johnson is expected to return for Sunday's game against the Panthers.

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