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Practice report: Protection is paramount


Right tackle Eric Winston will have his hands full Sunday against a talented Colts' pass rush.

The Texans had their first practice of the week on Wednesday in preparation for the Indianapolis Colts.

Cushing accolades: For the second time in his young career, linebacker Brian Cushing was named the AFC Defensive Player of the week.

In the locker room today, teammate and mentor DeMeco Ryans was extremely proud.

"It's a huge honor," Ryans said. "It shows that he's playing good. He's playing his butt off and he's making plays, big plays, and if you make big plays, you get the big honors. I'm real proud of the way he's been playing."

For more about the honor for the rookie from Southern California, click **here**.

Decisions, decisions: Because of Steve Slaton's issues with ball security and the standout performance by backup Ryan Moats against the Bills, head coach Gary Kubiak faces an interesting decision at running back. For more on that, click **here**.

Dynamic duo?: Indianapolis has won 16 consecutive regular season contests, and certainly a reason why has been the prolific pass rush, in particular by defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The two have combined for 14 sacks this season, and the Texans' offensive tackles—Duane Brown and Eric Winston—face a big challenge Sunday at Lucas Oil Field.

"Both of them are great rushers," Brown said. "I think Freeney has a little bigger arsenal of moves than Mathis, but they're both great rushers."

Freeney has a sack in all seven of the Colts' victories, and he picked up two against the Cardinals. Brown explained what separates Freeney from the rest of the league's pass rushers.

"He plays with great leverage," Brown said. "He's about 6-1, so he plays very low to the ground. It kind of gets it out of your comfort zone being down that low. He's very quick. He can stop on a dime, redirect and his spin move is known throughout the league. He's very tough out there. I'm studying as much as I can to try and get a key on when and what he might do something."

Winston said that Mathis is also a huge factor for the Colts' defense.

"The thing I think that's underrated about him is how talented he is and all that kind of thing, but he plays extremely hard," Winston said. "He's not going to quit. Even if you push him by the quarterback, he's going to get back in and try to knock the ball out."

Kubiak is impressed with the Colts' speed off the edges as well. .

"I told the guys this morning…everybody understands when we decide to throw it how quickly it's got to get gone," Kubiak said. "That's a point of emphasis all week."

Roster moves: Because of his right knee injury, tight end Owen Daniels was officially placed on the reserve/injured list Wednesday. His spot on the roster was filled by defensive end Jesse Nading, whom the Texans signed off their practice squad.

The Texans also added a pair of players to their practice squad in tight Dezmond Sherrod and linebacker Marcus Freeman.

Sherrod played collegiately at Mississippi State and spent time with the Steelers in 2008. Freeman is a former Ohio State Buckeye, and was picked in the fifth round of this year's draft by the Chicago Bears. He was cut by Chicago and on Buffalo's practice squad for a time this season.

Special teams adjustments: According to Kubiak, Nading was moved up to help primarily on special teams so that Joel Dreessen, the new starting tight end, won't have to participate on kick coverage and return units. Dreessen will continue in his role as the Texans' long snapper.

"What Jesse can do is basically replace Joel on special teams," Kubiak said. "Joel not only snaps for us, he played on everything. We need that body type, so that's where Jesse comes in."

Nading also was called up from the practice squad last season in November and went on to play in the final six games of the season. In his second season out of Colorado State, he says he's prepared for the latest opportunity.

"I feel a little bit more comfortable in what to expect when I'm out there, so hopefully that helps me out in preparation for once I get out there," Nading said. "I just want to go out and help the team and whatever they need me to do, I'll go do it."

Injury report:For the official injury report, click **here**.

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