Strong safety Bernard Pollard has been one of the key influences in a greatly improved run defense for the Texans
The Texans practiced outside at the Methodist Training Center Thursday in preparation for Sunday's Week 8 contest against the Buffalo Bills.
Johnson's return: Wide receiver Andre Johnson was back to work on Thursday after missing Wednesday's practice because of a lung contusion. For more on the status of the All-Pro wideout, click here.
Second(ary) to none: The Texans' secondary has certainly been bolstered by the early-season addition of strong safety Bernard Pollard and return of cornerback Jacques Reeves from injury.
Pollard has played in the last four games, and the Texans are 3-1 in that span. The fourth-year veteran led the Chiefs in tackles in both 2007 and 2008, and head coach Gary Kubiak thinks Pollard's presence has been positive.
"He's played very well," Kubiak said. "We've got a lot of leaders on defense, but obviously for a guy that's been here for a short period of time, he's very impressive."
Kubiak didn't just single out Pollard as being the only reason the secondary and the defense as a whole has played better.
"I think they've gotten some confidence getting Jacques back, and they've got a young kid who's playing extremely well in Glover Quin," Kubiak said. "Dunta (Robinson) is playing as good as he's played all year. Every week that we get together and they're more healthy, they're gaining more confidence."
Kubiak also thinks the secondary's improved tackling has put the kibosh on the big gains they allowed in each of the team's first three games.
"It's obviously important because we haven't given up big plays," he said. "When people have crossed the line of scrimmage, we've tackled better as a team. Normally, that's what goes with running plays, whether you're good on the back end tackling."
Weather conditions: A 30-percent chance of rain and a high temperature of 47 degrees is predicted for Sunday's game against the Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y. Today, the Texans worked under dark gray clouds, gusting wind and on-again-off-again rain. Kubiak said the weather was perfect preparation for the upcoming road trip.
"Yeah, this is good for us," Kubiak said. "Tough day: wind conditions, rain, but we've got to be mentally tough enough to handle it and so we got some good work. We had a good practice."
Bad weather or not, Kubiak says, that's life in the NFL.
"We'll probably play in tough conditions and that crowd is a very good crowd, and it's another road game in the NFL," Kubiak said. "So if we go down there and get sloppy, it doesn't matter who we're playing, we're going to get beat. So we've got to stay focused on ourselves."
Jacoby's impact: As Week 8 draws closer, the impact of receiver/return man Jacoby Jones can't be underestimated. Jones has caught just eight passes from Matt Schaub, but three have been touchdown receptions. He's consistently gaining large chunks of yardage on those catches, with a team-best 16.9 yards per reception.
Even though his play on offense has been spectacular, Jones is fairly ho-hum when asked about his impact.
"I think I've been holding my own," Jones said. "When guys are tired, I come in and pick up the slack."
Jones also has excelled on special teams, taking a kickoff back for a touchdown earlier in the year. He's averaging 29.6 yards per kickoff return, and 10.4 yards per punt.
"(Special teams coordinator) Joe (Marciano) makes great calls, and those guys do an exceptional job of blocking," Jones said. "I just run for my life. That's all."
Jones busted loose for a 62-yard punt return touchdown against the 49ers only to have it negated by a penalty.
"I got in the end zone and was doing the dance and didn't know what was going on," Jones said. "Then I turned around and saw that cloth and was like, 'Well, (the blockers) were just out there being football players and trying to help me out.' You can't fault them for it. I'll just try and come out next time and make another play."
Jones added that, should he find the end zone again, he has "a pocket full" of celebratory dances. He said that he practices at home in front of a mirror starting on Tuesday of every game week, whittles his choices down to five and then picks the best one of the five for Sundays.
Injury report:For the official injury report, click here.