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Practice report

A new scheme:When Gary Kubiak was named  the second head coach in the history of the Houston Texans, much was made of the offensive success he had in

under the tutelage of Mike Shanahan.

Undoubtedly, the offense will be improved from a year ago, but that's not the only part of the Texans attack that is getting a face lift. For the first time in 2006,

will employ a 4-3 defensive base. Trying to switch to a 4-3 with personnel designed for a 3-4 might be a problem, but it's one that the coaching staff is meeting head on.

"I think any job you take, there's going to be a challenge," defensive coordinator Richard Smith said. "Anytime there's a new coaching staff, you might have a problem. What I've been most impressed with is that the players want to do things right and the players do care about each other. That's the thing that's been most impressive to me. Football is a challenge. Any job you take is a challenge. That's just part of the business and if it wasn't for the challenge, you wouldn't want to be coaching in this profession."

Defensive end Antwan Peek and Jason Babin are two players that have found themselves shuffled during the defensive reorganization. Smith thinks that the switch is going well thus far.

"It's going good," Smith said following Thursday's workout. "We have a ways to go. Defensively, with Antwan and (Jason) Babin going back to their college position, I think we've got them situated in the proper position that best suits their ability."

Smith added that the pair doesn't need to worry about staying slim any more. Getting too heavy at linebacker in a 3-4 can be a problem, but now the duo can add to their speed with some strength through weight gain.

With the team still practicing in just helmets, it would seem there would be little the defense can work on other than pass coverage. Smith disagrees.

"Right now, we're trying to get them to learn our system, learn how to practice," he said. "A couple of things we're trying to work on is: number one, improve our technique; two, improve our effort; and three, become accountable to each other. As a unit if we can become accountable to each other, we have an opportunity to have some success."

Smith added that he was impressed with the way the team has practiced thus far, both defensively and offensively. He said the tempo has been good, a thought echoed by Kubiak Thursday.

"I thought it was our best tempo since I've been here," Kubiak said. "We're learning how to practice. Our guys are just getting after each other. We're practicing very, very fast and that's what we have to have. We're trying to develop a standard over this next month and we're getting there."

Wanted: Return man:A day after announcing that Jerome Mathis will miss up to four months with a broken bone in his left foot, the search continued Thursday for a suitable replacement. 

Kubiak said after practice that for now there is no frontrunner and that the return game will be handled by many players. He added that the loss of Mathis creates an opportunity for a player that otherwise might have been released.

"There's a door open for somebody on this football team to step up and make this football team," Kubiak said. "It's an excellent opportunity. We're going to give some people a chance. Today the new guy back there was [Chris (

It's an unfortunate situation, but we have to find a new Jerome Mathis to go back there and play. That's what we have to do as a team. We can't stop and feel sorry for ourselves. Somebody else has to do the job."

GM search continues:Rick Smith arrived in

afternoon and will meet with owner Bob McNair as well as other members of the organization over dinner tonight. Some have said that Smith is the frontrunner to replace Charley Casserly as general manager, but McNair said that the team is still focused on all of its original candidates.

"I just want to clarify something in terms of the search for our general manager and that is that we have three candidates and all three candidates are under consideration at this time," McNair said. "We've not eliminated anyone and this is sort of a sequential process. We have Rick Smith coming in this evening and we'll visit with him and have dinner with him tonight and visit with him tomorrow. Depending upon how that goes, we'll make the decision whether we'll meet with Reggie (McKenzie) and Rick Mueller another time. I just wanted to clarify that no one has been eliminated yet."

Smith is expected at Friday's workout and will address the media at noon after watching his potential roster in action for the first time. Of course, Smith is very familiar with his potential coach as both Smith and Kubiak were previously in

. Kubiak said Thursday that while he knows Smith well, it's important that everyone else in the organization get to know Smith before making any decision.

"I don't think the first time around Rick saw quite everybody Bob wanted him to sit down with," Kubiak said. "There's a few people that weren't here, so he's going to catch up on that today. There's many, many questions that have occurred over the past week or two that Bob would like to have answered and this is an excellent opportunity to do that, this second time around with Rick and they'll get a chance to meet his wife also. I know him, but it's important that Bob and the other people in the organization get to know him as well as I know him."

Injury update:After Wednesday's bad news on the injury front, the Texans received some positive news Thursday. Defensive tackle Travis Johnson's calf strain is not considered serious, though he will probably be out of action for about two weeks as a precaution.

"He has a strained calf, a very, very bad strained calf that's probably going to keep him out the next two weeks," Kubiak said. "There's no reason for him to come back. It's unfortunate, but we were lucky in a lot of ways. It's not that bad."

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