Practice report: Texans look for KO returner

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Jacoby Jones could be the Texans' kick returner on Sunday against the Bengals.

The Texans had a spirited practice outdoors at the Methodist Training Center on Thursday. It was an important day for the special teams unit, which is searching for a new kickoff returner.

Kubiak narrows choice: The absence of André Davis, who underwent surgery Monday on a dislocated finger, has forced coach Gary Kubiak to decide which player gives the Texans the biggest threat as a kick returner this week.


After practice Thursday, Kubiak announced that the team will use either Jacoby Jones or David Anderson in that role. The decision comes as somewhat of a surprise since running back Steve Slaton has received reps as a kick returner. But Kubiak doesn't want to risk injury to the rookie starter.


Jones, who doubles as the Texans' punt returner, has four career kickoff returns for 78 yards (19.5 avg.), all during his rookie season in 2007. Anderson, meanwhile, returned the only three kicks of his career for 90 total yards at Tennessee as a rookie in 2006.


Both players have a tremendous opportunity to contribute this Sunday not only on special teams, but on offense as well.


"This team's full of young players that have been given opportunities and a bunch of guys that haven't let anything go, that have hung on to those opportunities," Kubiak said. "David had a good camp. You guys remember how well he played coming out of camp. He was really our starting Zebra (receiver) there for a while. It's an opportunity for him and Jacoby to prove that they belong, and I think they do. So we'll see."


Davis looks forward to watching Jones and Anderson rise to the challenge.


"We've seen with this team that whenever guys get an opportunity to play, they always do something special," Davis said. "So I'm looking forward to seeing those guys go out there and I'm looking forward to getting myself healthy to get back out there."


Davis praying for fast recovery: Davis rejoined his teammates at Reliant Stadium on Thursday and shared his outlook with reporters after the procedure to repair his finger.


"It stinks for this to happen, but once again, injuries are part of the game," he said. "It's not something that I really wanted to happen, but it just got to the point that we had to do something about it. I'm just glad that we were able to kind of nip it in the bud now, and I'm just looking forward to a quick recovery."


It's a testament to Davis' toughness that he was able to withstand the pain for as long as he did.


"I was just trying to do all I can and be able to get some medication to be able to go out there and just do whatever I could to help the team out," he said. "Being able to get it taped up and stuff, it just got to a point that I couldn't take the pain anymore. And when (the medical staff) really took a good look at it, they realized that it was dislocated still and that I was playing with it dislocated for the last couple of weeks. We just wanted to get it fixed and move on from here."


Davis had a chance to return this week, but that changed once doctors saw the severity of the injury during surgery.

"If they didn't have to put a pin in, then it would have been probably by the end of this week," Davis said. "Now, with them being able to put the pin in, they realized that it was a little bit more serious than I think we first thought it was going to be. So it's just going to have to take some time for everything to heal back in the right spot, and I'll just take it, once again, one day at a time."


Cornerback battle: The Texans still are waiting for a cornerback to claim the starting spot opposite Jacques Reeves.


{QUOTE}While Fred Bennett began the season as a starter, DeMarcus Faggins has seen first-team reps in recent weeks. This week, it remains to be seen who will start, but if Thursday's practice is any indication, Bennett could be the man.


"Yeah, (Fred) had a really good practice today," Kubiak said. "What we're trying to do between him and Petey (Faggins) is just trying to have competition and one of those guys step up and take that job and not let it go. So we're splitting them right down the middle and rotating those guys, and we just need one to step up big time."


The return of Dunta Robinson adds another wrinkle to the competition. In his first game back last Sunday after a nearly year-long rehab process, Robinson showed his trademark toughness in nickel and dime situations. Yet his rustiness also was evident.


Knowing Robinson's skill and talent, it may be tough to keep him off the field. Kubiak expects him to play more against Cincinnati than he did versus Detroit.


"It depends on the flow of the game," Kubiak said. "Last week, there weren't a lot of reps for our defense because our offense was on the field for most of the time. The way the game played out, it called for him to play a little more.


"This week, this team could play even three- and four-wide the whole game, so I would say, if you asked me to put a number on it, I'm looking at 30 to 35 (reps) this week (for Robinson). But we'll see how the game goes."


Three in a row: The Texans have won consecutive games by not looking past either the Miami Dolphins or the Detroit Lions. With the winless Bengals coming to town this Sunday, the Texans must follow the same mindset.


Texans owner Bob McNair is not taking a win for granted, especially since it would give the team its third in a row, which is a franchise milestone.

"We have a team coming in here that's really a good team, but they have a bad record," McNair said. "But they are not a bad team. They've got some great athletes, and we're going to have to play hard and play good football in order to beat them.


"This is not a lay down, but it's easy for people to relax and ease up a little bit. That's the time that you can have some disappointing defeats. So I'll be very happy if we come out a winner. I expect us to win, but we have to go out there and make it happen."


Finishing off opponents and playing a full 60 minutes is something the Texans continue to work on. This week's game provides a great test against a team whose record belies its talent.


"You have to have that discipline to maintain that level of concentration for an extended period of time," McNair said. "You can't concentrate on your job for just a short period of time. You have to maintain that, and it takes a lot of discipline to do that."


Injury Notes: Defensive end Mario Williams still is nursing a sore shoulder, so Kubiak held him out of contact drills Thursday.

For the official injury report, click here.


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