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Houston Texans

Receivers battle for position


Kevin Walter is one of many receivers looking to lock down a spot opposite Andre Johnson.

When the Texans released veteran Eric Moulds in the offseason, a whole new perspective opened up for the team's group of wide receivers.

Pro Bowler Andre Johnson is set on one side. But a sea of receivers suddenly has a new outlook for the other starting job.

That was obvious to Andre' Davis when he was deciding where to go as a free agent. Davis and returning backup Kevin Walter are the leading candidates for that job, but players like Jerome Mathis and Charlie Adams, not to mention rookie Jacoby Jones and David Anderson, all feel they have a shot at the job.

"This has just opened up competition and brings the best out in everyone," Davis said. "A lot of teams have two superstars starting so a lot of guys go into camp realizing that they're fighting for the No. 3 or 4 spot. Now there's a lot of guys fighting for the No. 2 position so I think it's going to make a real exciting spring and summer."

The job opening especially appealed to Davis, the former Browns, Patriots and Bills player who came to Houston as a free agent this year. Davis, who co-holds the NFL record along with nine other players for the longest catch in league history with a 99-yard touchdown pass in 2004, thought a long time about where he wanted to play.

"I was just trying to research the teams and see what would be the best opportunity," Davis said. "Here I saw that Eric Moulds had left and any time you see that a starter has left you know there's an open position."

But Davis knows it won't be easy to win that spot. Among other challenges, Davis feels he has to basically forget everything he has learned in his five years in the NFL.

"You know guys who have been here have an upper hand on me," Davis said. "They've been in the system. They know what the coaches expect. So I'm coming in kind of at a disadvantage, even though I've been in the league five years.

"Any time you go to a different team it's always like you're a rookie all over again. I still have to get to the point where I know what the coaches are looking for and make sure I do it exactly to their specifications and not base it off how I've done it elsewhere.

"I've got to reboot my whole memory and erase everything I've learned before to make sure I can fit into this offense and not try to act like I know everything based on other teams I've been on. I guess that's the toughest part for me, erasing the experience that I have. Not all together because that's what helps you in this league. But just trying to erase the things I've come to know before and really learn what the coaches are looking for so I can do what I need to do for this team."

{QUOTE} Walter, who played in all 16 games for the Texans, starting one last year, doesn't want to forget anything he learned. He impressed the coaching staff enough then that now coach Gary Kubiak wishes he had played Walter more last season.
"I think you're looking at a player right there who has earned the right to play," Kubiak said. "I've said this before, I went back and watched our film and it felt like if I had given Kevin Walter more chances to make plays we would have won a few more games.

"That's what he is. He's an overachiever, so to speak, a tremendous worker, a lot like Jason (Simmons) when I talked about the things I said about him. His teammates can count on him. He's going to win out because of his work ethic in the long haul and that's what we want around here."

Walter is flattered by Kubiak's praise but is taking nothing for granted.

"You've got to go out each day and get better," Walter said. "Hopefully I can prove to coach and to everybody out here that I deserve to be the No. 2 guy and make plays and that's what I'm trying to do.

"It makes me happy that he feels confidence in me doing that. But I still have to go out and prove myself and make plays and get the respect from everybody."

Walter caught 17 passes for 160 yards last year and hopes many more are coming his way. He doesn't mind taking tips from Johnson, who caught an NFL best 103 passes for 1,144 yards last year.

"Dre is phenomenal," Walter said. "He's one of the best receivers in the league. I learn from Andre and all the receivers. I take different techniques that he uses and try to apply them to me. I learned a lot.

"I've been fortunate in my career to learn from some good guys like Andre and Eric Moulds. Andre's a class act on and off the field and he works extremely hard and I'm just working trying to be like him."

Jones was a third-round pick by the Texans in the recent draft and he's just trying to get accustomed to the NFL now.

"It's been going 100 miles per hour for me so far," Jones said. "In five days, I've learned 100 plays. It's challenging. It makes you get in your playbook and study.

"I told my mom I wish I had used my school books the way I've used this playbook. I'd probably have been a 5.0 student.

"It's something new for me being a rookie. Everything is new. This is what I expected. The only thing I've been surprised by is the linemen are fast too. The defensive linemen can really run."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.

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