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Practice report: Rest, reflection


RB Steve Slaton and the Texans practiced one last time Tuesday, before a bye week break.

The Texans practiced outside Tuesday morning at the Methodist Training Center. It was their final bit of work until next Monday, as the players have off for the rest of the week because of a bye on Sunday.

Progress of 2009: A recurring topic during the media's Tuesday session with Texans coach Gary Kubiak was the idea of what the squad had accomplished so far this season.

At 5-4 and with a definite shot at making the playoffs, the Texans are ahead of the curve from where they've been in previous seasons. But nobody on the squad is satisfied, starting at the top with owner Bob McNair.

"There are few elite teams in the league, and we've got to eliminate some mental errors before we become an elite team," McNair said. "Clearly, once we do that, we will be not just a good team, we'll be an elite team. I'm pleased with that. We just have to keep making progress."

Wide receiver Andre Johnson agrees and still wants more in 2009.

"I think it's good to be in this situation," he said. "Now it's up to us to come back and try to win all these games that we have left."

Right tackle Eric Winston is enthusiastic about the current mental makeup of the squad and wants it to roll on through the months of November and December.

"I like the way our attitude is," Winston said. "I like our thought process. I think everyone is getting better. I think guys are improving and making big jumps. We just have to keep going. We can't let it fall back at all."

Defensive surge:On defense, after the stumbles of the first three weeks, Frank Bush's crew has clamped down and performed well. Captain DeMeco Ryans takes pride in what he and his defensive mates have been able to accomplish.

"I'm very proud of the way our guys have stepped up," Ryans said. "We were challenged, a lot and guys stepped up. We responded to the challenge, stopping the run and playing a lot better on defense. We still have room for improvement and we can be as good as any defense out there."

Rookie linebacker Brian Cushing agrees, but doesn't want to reflect on it too much.

"If you do get caught up in it, you'll get caught off-guard and have that game or stretch of games that you don't want to have," Cushing said. "The biggest thing is just finding a way you can get better. Instead of thinking what you're doing good, find out what you did bad and try to improve upon that."

Run improvement: After nine games, the Texans have struggled to run the football consistently well. They're averaging 3.3 yards per rush and 90.8 yards per game. The lone 100-plus yard performance by an individual came when Ryan Moats carried 23 times for 126 yards in the road win at Buffalo.

Moats, Steve Slaton and Chris Brown have carried the football with varying frequencies throughout the season, and head coach Gary Kubiak said after Tuesday's practice that the team still needs those three ball carriers.

{QUOTE}"I know y'all are tired of hearing it, but I'll need them all and I'll watch them practice," Kubiak said. "I want to see how Steve responds and comes back from this break. I want to see how Ryan responds and Chris being as fresh as he can be. So it'll be a day-to-day deal for me."

Brown didn't carry the football in Sunday's loss at Indianapolis. He has averaged 3.3 yards per carry in 42 attempts this season. Of the three backs, he has the fewest total rushes, but Kubiak still has confidence in Brown.

"To me, it's hard for three guys to get involved when you're running the ball as much as we've been running the ball, so that's been difficult," Kubiak said. "We'll get everything Chris has here over the course of these last seven weeks, and obviously he'll be as fresh as he's been coming out of training camp, so we'll see."

Kubiak also was asked about whether or not the team has considered bringing practice squad backs Chris Henry and Arian Foster up to the 53-man roster.

"Yeah, we're watching Chris and watching Arian every day," Kubiak said. "It's a topic that comes up, and obviously we can activate one of those players at any time. But yeah, it's something. We're discussing a lot of issues as we move forward."

Schaub stats: Despite the problems in the run game, the Texans have been proficient passing the ball. Quarterback Matt Schaub is averaging 294.8 yards passing per game, the third-best mark in the NFL.

He's also tossed 17 touchdown passes, which ties him for the league lead with Drew Brees. Schaub has had to throw the ball more often because of the team's inability to run effectively, which Kubiak wants to change.

"I think it's given us the best chance to move the ball in some of the scenarios that we've been in as a team," Kubiak said. "Hopefully, we continue to find some more balance there in the back half."

Like he has said previously this season, Kubiak also wants Schaub to improve upon his nine interceptions, four of which have come in the last two games.

"I'm concerned about the turnovers," Kubiak said. "But as I've said before, the difference in being a dang good quarterback and being a great quarterback is continuing to do what you do but protecting the ball for your team. He hasn't protected it the way he needs to the last two weeks, but he's had a pretty good nine weeks as a pro and he's going to have to be that and even more in these last seven."

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