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Practice Insider - Wednesday

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The Texans' offense will focus on securing low yardage thirds downs against the Panthers.

After several days of rest, Kubiak and the troops are preparing for Julius Peppers and the pesky Panthers' front line.

Mario takes it to the house: Defensive end Mario Williams will be packing a bag full of NFL honors when he heads to his home state of North Carolina to square off against the Panthers on Sunday.

Williams was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, the Associated Press Player of the Week and Sports Illustrated's Peter King defensive player of the week. Not bad luggage to be toting around.

"It's my first time ever having something like that," Williams said. "It's amazing. Hopefully, not just me, but hopefully our defense sees a lot of that."

The first pick in the 2006 draft from North Carolina State collected five tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hurries, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and his first career touchdown in the Texans' 20-3 win over the Chiefs.

His performance is lending comparisons to the other number 90, Carolina's famed defensive end Julius Peppers.

While both players stand at around 6'7", Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said Williams still had a lot of work to do before securing Peppers' NFL stature.

"They're built the same," Kubiak said. "They're both what, 6'7" guys? You don't find that sort of size playing defensive line. They're built the same, so they've been compared a lot.

"Julius Peppers has been doing it week-in and week-out now for what seven or eight years. Am I right? And if you want to be considered a great player in this league, if you want your peers to think of you that way, you have to do it week-in and week-out."

Taking over Peppers & Co.: Kubiak said containing Peppers and his troops was not in the game plan because the Panthers' defensive line with Kris Jenkins and Mike Rucker is far too mobile and versatile.

"It's hard because they move him everywhere," Kubiak said. "He's such a good player, a smart player. He'll play inside on your guard. He'll play on both sides as a defensive end. So to sit there and say this is how we're going to neutralize him, I don't think you can do that. They're too good as a group."

Instead, the Texans are going to offensively focus on getting low-yardage third downs.

"I think what's key for us is having third downs that are manageable," Kubiak said. "If you get to third and seven or 10 against this team, then you're going to get beat. So hopefully we keep it on schedule."

Securing the secondary: After losing Glenn Earl, Jason Simmons and Brandon Harrison to the injured reserve, the Texans secondary was looking like it might be second-rate. Not the case now.

Safety Von Hutchins stepped up in the win over Kansas City to prove that he is starting material. And the Texans have acquired two new players who can immediately make an impact in the backfield.

Safety Michael Boulware came to the Texans through a trade with Seattle, and Tuesday Houston acquired former New York Giant Will Demps.

Kubiak said Demps will have to fast forward through the playbook to be ready for action on Sunday.

"We'll see how much defense he grasps," Kubiak said. "But he's going to have to be ready to go. He's in the exact same position that Boulware was in last week. He's going to have to know enough defense to be able to play and be a factor on special teams."

The head coach does believe Demps is up for the task.

"He's an overachiever," Kubiak said. "He came into this league as a free agent. He made his way onto one of the best defenses in football in Baltimore and played a great deal. He's very well respected. He's smart."

Demps proved so much, saying he would do whatever it takes to make sure he's fitting into the Texans' defensive scheme.

"I understand that I need to learn from these guys and get this thing going," Demps said. "I'm just an added piece to them. I'm not going to be a burden to them. I am just going to pick up where they are, pick their brains, and just move forward."

No Carr, no problem: Former Texans quarterback David Carr is backing up Panthers starter Jake Delhomme. For some Texans players, it will be strange seeing their old teammate on the opposing sidelines.

"It was weird just the day he left," guard Chester Pitts said. "That's who I'd been with for five years. He was drafted number one and I was like 50 after him or something – but nobody's keeping up with the numbers."

For coach Kubiak, knowing that his former player is helping the opposition dissect the Texans playbook means nothing. Kubiak is keeping his mind on his team.

"He knows us. He knows how we call things, some of our terminology at the line of scrimmage," Kubiak said. "But I'm one of those guys - I don't get caught up in that too much. I'm worried about what we're doing. Let's worry about our football. Let's fix some things we made mistakes on this past week. Because if we don't do that, it won't matter whether they know we're running or passing if we're not doing it well. Hopefully, we'll go down there and play solid football."

Injuries: Also moving forward is N.D. Kalu. He's just doing it with a cast on his hand. The defensive end broke several bones during the Chiefs' game, but still managed to register a fourth-quarter sack.

"If it's passing downs, it shouldn't limit me, but if it's running downs, I just have to make sure my hand is strong enough to actually grab somebody," Kalu said.

Travis Johnson suffered a severe sprained ankle during the game and sat out of Wednesday's practice. Kubiak said the defensive tackle will ready to for action on Sunday against the Panthers.

"He did not practice today, but we're expecting him to be ready to go," Kubiak said. "So he'll be the biggest question mark going into the game."

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