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Receiving corps continues to produce


The Texans' receivers have gone down and stepped up this season. They're slowly getting healthy—very slowly, very painfully.

Rookie Jacoby Jones returned to the roster two weeks ago, but didn't play. He played briefly against the Titans on Sunday and discovered he'd come back too soon after falling on his injured shoulder.

Andre Johnson took part in Wednesday's practice for the first time since his knee injury in the second game of the season. He's still a long shot to play against San Diego.

But the positive twist for the Texans is that there have been players grabbing at their chances to play.

André Davis spent the first two weeks on the inactive list before Johnson's knee injury. David Anderson also has emerged from anonymity. Both have performed well.

Kevin Walter already was a starter when the injuries began popping up. In the absence of Jones and Johnson, Walter has become a primary target for Matt Schaub in recent weeks. Walter had a career-best 12 receptions for 160 yards against Jacksonville and had another big game against Tennessee with six catches for a team-high 97 yards and a score.

Don't forget tight end Owen Daniels, also a favorite target.

"It's been a huge bright spot of our team," coach Gary Kubiak said, "when you take Kevin, David and André and what they've done the past month, making plays for our football team and giving us opportunities.

"It's like I told you all before, you don't know really when guys are taking care of business and getting ready to be a starter until they get pushed into a situation.

"All those guys have been pushed to a more extensive role and every guy has responded to that role."

{QUOTE}It's never good to have injuries. Still, the byproduct has been good for players getting a chance.

"We have more weapons that's all, it adds to the fire," Jones said.

Jones thought he was ready to add to those weapons against the Titans, and so did Kubiak. An early hit on his injured shoulder told a different story.

"I felt I was ready to play, I just took a fall on it early in the game," Jones said. "I want to play, but then again, I don't want to hurt the team. I'll push it through practice and see what it feels like (this week)."

Kubiak isn't saying if Jones or Johnson will play against the San Diego Chargers.

"Andre did practice football today, he took individual with the team the first 20 minutes of practice," Kubiak said. "That's a step forward and he'll continue to do more through the week."

But will he play against the Chargers?

"That's still a reach for him until he gets out here and works in a competitive environment," Kubiak said of his Pro Bowl receiver. "He was doing individual drills today. We'll see how he responds tomorrow."

Johnson is tired of the layoff.

"I just wish I was playing," he said. "Every day I'm in here rehabbing. I'm getting better. It's just not as fast as we all hoped that it would happen. The biggest thing is I'm making progress and getting better."

Johnson doesn't want to come back less than full speed. Johnson wants to be Johnson.

"I don't want to be out there running half speed or with a limp," he said. "I want to be like I was when I left."

Until Johnson and Jones are full speed again, receivers like Anderson and Davis must make the most of their chances.

Anderson was a seventh-round draft pick from Colorado State in 2006. He played last season on special teams and has played in three games so far this season. He caught three passes for 33 yards against the Jaguars, and caught another three passes in the thrilling 38-36 loss to Tennessee, scoring his first NFL touchdown in the process.

"If you lose a player like Andre, who means so much to this team, the rest of us know we've got to pick it up to make up for that and that's what we've done," Anderson said.

"The NFL is a game of opportunities," Anderson said. "Everyone from Tom Brady to myself, it's like when you get your shot, you've got to take advantage of it. I feel I've played pretty well. Obviously, you can always play better.

"We've got to get some guys healthy. Obviously, Andre is a huge part of this team. When he comes back, things are going to be different. That's what you've got to expect for such a great player."

Davis was inactive for the first two games this season. He's been in the mix since the Indianapolis game and expects to be ready, whether he's starting or filling in when the receiving corps is at full strength again.

"I don't think it's going to change a thing," Davis said. "I'm going to go out there and continue to prepare like we're going to be playing. I'm in a mode that it's in-season and I'm ready to go at all times. If they need me or don't need me, I'll be prepared for it."

Quarterback Matt Schaub has found ways to keep on producing through the air with the targets he's been given. Walter has been a big reason for that.

"We all know and feel confident in ourselves that whoever is in there will get the job done," Walter said. "We've said from the beginning that we have receivers who can make plays and we all have proven that a little this year and we're going to continue to prove that."

Walter is looking for more consistency so that the offense always produces like it did fighting back from a 32-7 deficit in the final period against Tennessee.

"That fourth quarter was a lot of fun," he said. "Everybody was making plays and trying to get into the end zone. If we can do that in the first three quarters, we'll be unstoppable.

"They were expecting us to pass, but they weren't in a prevent defense by any means. They were in the same coverage as they were all game. It was just a matter of us being able to go out and execute in the fourth quarter."

The fourth quarter gives the Texans hope.

"I've never been a part of anything like that with the offense being down so much and couldn't do anything and then all of a sudden they couldn't stop us," Daniels said. "Scoring that many points in a quarter, I've never been a part of that before, despite turning the ball over two times and having a chance to win there at the end.

"That was incredible."

Injuries bring out emotions. Johnson just wants to get back. Anderson just want more and more opportunities.

"I just have to be ready to play, in case they do continue calling my number," Anderson said. "I can't control how many plays they get. I can just hope for the most and get my opportunities and make the most of it. I know I can play and the coaches know that, too. They're the ones who make the decisions."

Johnson already has proven his status. He wants to get back to forming a fearsome pass-catch team with Schaub.

"The first two games, I was so excited, and then for something like that to happen, it brings you down," Johnson said of his injury at Tennessee. "I'm just so anxious to get back out there just to play. It doesn't matter how many games are left in the season.

"I just want to get back out there and play with Matt. Hopefully, there is something we can have. I hate to go out there and mess (my knee) up worse than it is.

"That's why I'm not out there."

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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