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Practice report: Texans wary of trap game


The Texans (7-7) aren't taking the Raiders (3-11) lightly. Oakland ranks in the top 10 in rushing and pass defense and surprised the Jets and Broncos earlier this season.

Raiders capable of surprises: The Texans want to make sure they don't fall into a trap game at Oakland on Sunday and blow their chances of finishing with a winning record for the first time in franchise history.

On the surface, the Raiders look like they have thrown in the towel. The have won only three games this season and rank 31st in offense (262.2 yards per game) and 27th in defense (362.2 ypg).

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, a second-year pro, is completing just 51.6 percent of his passes and has thrown nine interceptions. His two starting receivers, Ronald Curry and Ashley Leslie, probably won't play against Houston because of injuries.

{QUOTE}But Oakland is capable of surprises. Just ask the Jets and Broncos, two teams vying for a spot in the playoffs. The Raiders beat them by shutting down their passing games and running the ball well.

"They have a lot of talent," coach Gary Kubiak said. "They have a young quarterback. Anytime you're trying to bring up a young quarterback, those are pains you go through.

"Two of the teams they've beaten are leading their divisions: Denver and the Jets. They do things that give us problems. They are excellent against the pass and they run the ball very well and they have two great returners."

The Raiders' talent breakdown looks like this: Wide receiver Jonnie Lee Higgins handles punt return duties and has two for touchdowns this season. Cornerback Justin Miller has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Running back Justin Fargas has rushed for 749 yards and is backed up by Darren McFadden, who has 451 yards on the ground. McFadden and Fargas have helped make the Raiders into the 10th best rushing offense in the league (118.3 ypg). Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was just voted into the Pro Bowl and will match up one-on-one against Andre Johnson.

"We know that they have a lot of tremendous athletes," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "And you go back and watch what they did to Denver, who was a pretty good football team, and they beat them pretty good. So, going in and expecting a win and thinking it's automatic, that's not something we're doing."

Offensive line coming into its own: The Texans' offensive line received its fair share of criticism at the beginning of the season for breakdowns in pass protections, but this young group has come into its own during the team's four-game winning streak.

Rookie left tackle Duane Brown has been fending off some of the league's toughest defensive ends. Guard Chester Pitts was voted an alternate to the Pro Bowl and has made it a habit of getting to second-level defenders. And the entire unit has flourished under a zone blocking scheme that has helped rookie Steve Slaton become the third leading rusher in the AFC.

"Those guys as a group, they won't leave the field," Kubiak said. "I know we've been fortunate they've been healthy, but as a group, that's part of their bond. They're not going to leave the field. They're going to play together."

No member of the offensive line has missed a start because of injury and Kubiak thinks the unit has the potential to be the heart of the offense.

"As I've said from the start, they can become the strength of the team," Kubiak said. "There's no doubt in my mind that they have kind of headed in that direction and the longer those guys play together and work together and stay together, the better you are."

Lucky for the Texans, it looks like the starting offensive lineman will be around for awhile.

"I know Chris (Myers) is locked in for a while," Kubiak said. "Eric's (Winston) locked in for a while. Then you've got the other guys. Of course, Duane's locked in for a while. Chester and Mike (Brisiel), I don't know their situation offhand, but believe me, as well as they've played and as good of workers as they are and people on top of that, it's our job to keep them together for a long time."

Injury notes: Linebacker Xavier Adibi (groin) did not practice for a second consecutive day. If he is not able to play on Sunday, Morlon Greenwood will start in his place at weakside linebacker. Greenwood played for Adibi after the rookie left the game early against the Titans.

"He (Greenwood) came in and played 40 plays and played very well and actually had a few tackles on special teams," Kubiak said.

Long snapper Clark Harris missed practice because a stomach bug, so defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina took all of the reps at a snapper.

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

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