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Practice report: Slaton vs. Johnson


The Texans (6-7) are riding the high of a three-game winning streak as they prepare to face the division rival Tennessee Titans (12-1).

Let the comparisons begin:Sunday's game features two of the top rookies in the NFL in running backs Steve Slaton and Chris Johnson, two of three rookies to top the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season.

Slaton (5-9, 203), a third-round draft pick by the Texans this year, is eighth in the NFL with 1,024 rushing yards on 206 carries (5.0 yards per carry). He has nine touchdowns – eight rushing and one receiving.

Johnson (5-11, 200), the Titans' first-round pick, ranks sixth in the NFL with 1,094 yards on 222 carries (4.9 avg.). Like Slaton, he also has eight rushing touchdowns and one receiving score.

"They're both big-play guys from a speed standpoint," Kubiak said. "When they came out (of college), that was the strength of both of them. I think how big of a factor they've played on their teams this year so quickly has probably been a surprise to everybody, but (they're) two fine young players and have bright futures."

Slaton ran for 116 yards and a touchdown in the teams' previous meeting in Week 3, his first-career start. He is the only player to have more than 100 yards rushing against the Titans this season. Johnson had 74 yards on 16 carries in that game.

Sticking with Jones:Punt returner Jacoby Jones fumbled twice at Green Bay, losing one near midfield that led to a fourth-quarter Packers touchdown.

Kubiak said the team is standing by the second-year pro and that he will not relieve Jones of his punt return duties.

"No, we're not going to run away from his problem," Kubiak said. "We're going to keep battling with him and putting him back there because the kid's very talented. But at the same time, we do have to find a way to make him more consistent."

Jones has two punt returns for touchdowns this season and ranks fourth in the NFL with 12.5 yards per return. He struggled to hold on to the ball in the preseason but had put the issue behind him until last Sunday.

Loads of potential:Quarterback Matt Schaub won **AFC Offensive Player of the Week** honors this week after throwing for 414 yards and two touchdowns at Green Bay. Dating back to Sept. 28 at Jacksonville, Schaub has a 108.2 passer rating in his last six starts.

Kubiak was asked how close Schaub is to being an elite NFL quarterback.

"I think all you have to do is look when he's been on the field or take his numbers against other people in this league, he tells you what he's capable of," Kubiak said. "He's capable of being a top-five guy in this league, in my opinion. Now, staying healthy and playing within the system, protecting the ball, those are the things that are going to tell you if he can be great along the way. But obviously, when he's had a chance to do it, he's done it pretty darn good."

Schaub's worst game this season came against the Titans in Week 3, when he was 17-of-33 with three interceptions and no touchdowns. This game will be a good indicator of how much progress he and the Texans have made since then.

Ready for the challenge: Rookie left tackle Duane Brown struggled in his first outing against the Titans, allowing defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch one sack, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble.

"It was tough sledding for him early in the season," Schaub said. "But when you look at, over the course of the entire year, who he's had to go up against, he's played tremendously well as the year went on. So we're extremely confident in what he can do."

Brown is ready for this Sunday's rematch against Vanden Bosch, Albert Haynesworth & Co.

"You know, they pretty much won the battle the last time we played them," Brown said. "We had the game there, and then they just took control in the fourth quarter. Us as an offensive line, we've really taken things like that personally the past few weeks and wanted to put the games on our backs to win it, and we've been able to succeed in that area.

"We just want to keep the ball rolling. We know they are going bring different looks to us and we know it's going to be a fight for four quarters. But we're at home. We feel like we're a different team now. We're just going to go out there and play."

Williams honored:Wide receiver Harry Williams, who suffered a career-ending neck injury in the preseason this year, was **named the Texans' Ed Block Courage Award winner** on Wednesday.

Williams was emerging as a special teams ace before the injury and has since become a regular visitor to the Texans' locker room as he continues to go through treatment at a Houston rehabiliation center.

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