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Receivers ready if 'Dre can't play


The stage is set for Sunday's battle of the unbeatens at Reliant Stadium and Texans Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson likely won't be on it.

Johnson, the NFL's leading receiver last season, suffered a sprained left knee in Sunday's victory over the Carolina Panthers.

He's expected to watch from the sidelines when the Texans try to win for the second time in a row over the defending Super Bowl champion Colts.

"The stage is set," Johnson said.

Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowl pick, and new quarterback Matt Schaub have become an efficient combination for the Texans' offense. Johnson had his second 100-yard receiving day in two games this season against the Panthers with seven catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

Johnson's injury came at a bad time with the Texans off to their best start. He's rarely hurt. He's started 63 of 66 games with the Texans.

"This is something that's rarely happened to me," Johnson said. "I looked at the play. It was kind of nasty looking at it, but I'm glad I didn't have to get surgery that could be season ending."

{QUOTE}Coach Gary Kubiak doesn't like the idea of going against the Colts without one of his primary offensive weapons. He said Johnson might be reexamined on Friday.

"I know that it's very favorable that this could be a short-term deal," Kubiak said. "It's obvious the chances are great he won't play this week and we have to prepare for him not to play."

Johnson's status gives the rest of the receivers a chance to shine, especially rookie surprise Jacoby Jones, who was outstanding in preseason but has not scored a touchdown in two regular season games.

"He's ready to play and he'll obviously play a lot more with Andre's situation," Kubiak said. "That's why we drafted him and he's come a long way. He's got a chance now to come even further and be a key to our football team."

Jones was the breakout star of preseason. He led the league with a 40.6 punt return average and returned two punts for touchdowns. Now he's ready for the big stage.

"Getting more touches means more opportunities," Jones said. "Getting in the end zone spoils you. I know what that feels like, so I hope I can get back in the end zone again."

In addition to Jones, André Davis, Kevin Walter and Jerome Mathis can expect more playing time against the Colts.

"We're going to play all four of them," Kubiak said. "They'll probably rotate every two plays together to keep them fresh."

Walter has been starting opposite Johnson this season.

"We have guys who can step in and make plays," Walter said. "With Andre being out, we've got to do that. We need to do that to even give ourselves a chance."

The Texans are Davis' fourth team. He played a reserve role at Buffalo last season. His best year was his second season at Cleveland in 2003 when he had 40 catches and five touchdowns in eight starts.

"We have a bunch of capable guys," Davis said. "Right now, with Andre being out, that's giving the rest of us a chance to show what we can do. We have to continue to go out and not make mistakes, make sure we don't put the team in a hole because of us."

Johnson says he won't play unless he's full speed.

"I don't think I'll be limping out there," he said. "I wouldn't want to do anything to hurt my team. If I go out there unhealthy, I'd be hurting the team instead of helping. That's something I wouldn't want to do."

The Texans' defense expects to chip in too.

"It means as a defense, you've got to step up more and that's a challenge I think we'll be up for," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "As a defense, I've got to make more plays. Mario (Williams) has to make more plays. Amobi (Okoye) has to do more. DeMeco (Ryans) has to do something great.

"We all have to step up and be better than we were before."

Kubiak sees the added excitement in the Texans' remaining wide receivers.

"There's a spotlight on them," Kubiak said. "They're getting a lot more reps than they normally get. The key is that we run our offense. We get the ball to the right spot and whoever is in that spot is supposed to make the play.

"I think all four of those kids are very eager about an opportunity."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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