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Practice report: Wednesday


Heading into Friday's game against Dallas, the Texans rank first in the NFL in third down efficiency at 59.3 percent, first in completion percentage at 78.0 and first in quarterback rating at 126.7.

Studdard to start: Second-year pro Kasey Studdard will get his turn in the starting lineup on Friday, stepping in for left guard Chester Pitts who is nursing a sore ankle. Pitts rolled his ankle last week and should be fine before the regular season. More than anything, coach Gary Kubiak wants to give Studdard the opportunity to prove himself as a starter.

"We know he's a player," Kubiak said. "He is vastly improved, one of the most improved players we've had around here going into his year two. Now, he gets a chance at a very difficult stage but a very great stage to say, 'Hey, I can do this. I can be a starter in this league.' And that's what we are looking for, to see if he has that ability."

{QUOTE}Studdard saw action in just three games as a rookie, contributing primarily on special teams. The coaches liked his physical play, but the guard often got beat because of his recklessness. During camp this year, assistant head coach Alex Gibbs helped channel Studdard's high motor into disciplined blocking.

"He's got a lot of energy as a player," Kubiak said. "I like that. I think our football team respects the way he plays the game, how hard he plays. He fits in with our group. He's had to eliminate some mistakes he's made in the past and he's working towards doing that."

Kubiak will see what Studdard is made of when he goes against one of the toughest front sevens in the league at Texas Stadium. The Cowboys' 3-4 defense boasts several Pro Bowl pass rushers, so Studdard has his work cut out for him.

"If he steps on that field on Friday night with the group he's fixing to step on the field against, and handles himself and plays well, it's going to say a lot for his career and where he's going," Kubiak said. "This game is about opportunity and it's a big opportunity for him."

First round of cuts coming: The Texans will make their first round of cuts this weekend, trimming their roster down five spots. It's a possibility that cornerback Dunta Robinson will go on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Still, the coaches will look at preseason game footage and review any scenario possible.

Kubiak plans to play the starters for about three quarters. Only quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Sage Rosenfels could see action, leaving Shane Boyd and Alex Brink on the sidles. That means the first two preseason games will determine the fates of several backups.

"You have to go back and look at the big picture," Kubiak said. "I think we are at a point right now, where we reach this game, where naturally you're not going to see those young guys as much as Friday.

"It's part of the process. We are still in the evaluation process with some of those guys - some very, very difficult decisions to make. They tend to play themselves out. Hopefully, we got some of these tough questions answered here after we get through with Tampa Bay, because right now they are very difficult."

The head coach will determine the 53-man roster after the Texans' final preseason game against the Buccaneers. He will use that game to evaluate the play of the non-starters, especially the younger players.

Calling all outside rushers: In two preseason games, the Texans have recorded one sack. Defensive end Tim Bullman took down Saints quarterback Mark Brunell for a loss of three yards.

The coaches aren't too worried about what they have in Mario Williams because of the 14 sacks he racked up last year. What they need is for someone to step up on the opposite side of Williams.

Rosevelt Colvin was signed to be that guy. However, a foot injury that ended his 2007 season with New England after 11 games and dealing with a new system a new position (he is lining up at end instead of linebacker) has held him back this preseason.

Colvin showed more speed off the ball in New Orleans, but he has a lot to prove against the Cowboys.

"He (Colvin) made a step forward," Kubiak said. "This one is extremely important as we get towards these tough, tough decisions. It's important for a lot of players, not just him. It's important for the team so we just have to get out there and try to get better, including him."

Kubiak will have Colvin rush the passer from nickel, as well as N.D. Kalu and Chaun Thompson, allowing coaches to compare all three outside speed rushers.

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