Rookie triplets

Texans rookie safety Glenn Earl watched plenty of film in college. It made him a better player and it got him noticed as a hard, dedicated worker.

So much for that.

"I watched a lot of film in college but here basically everyone watches film so to differentiate yourself between another guy you have to watch a ridiculous amount," he said. "I'm trying to get into that. It's easier said than done though. You get very little time to yourself at this level so it's hard to spend that completely on football but you basically have to. It's something to get used to."

No amount of film prepared him for what he saw at Arrowhead Stadium last week.

Earl, a fourth round pick out of Notre Dame, got his first start Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and he'll be the first to tell you Tony Gonzalez doesn't necessarily play like the little pixilated man on the TV screen.

"It wasn't as bad as I thought it was or as good as I thought it was," Earl said of his 10-tackle performance. "I made some mistakes, I made some plays. I'm glad to get it out of the way. It's the first one. Hopefully the next game I'll settle in and play a little better."

At least he's not alone in his quest.

Earl is just the most recent rookie addition to a defense that started two first-year players on opening day – cornerback Dunta Robinson and linebacker Jason Babin.

Robinson has the stigma of playing one of the toughest positions in football. Babin is switching positions after playing defensive end in college.

It hasn't been easy, but nothing really seems to bother Babin, including playing so many rookies on defense. In fact, he sees at least one advantage to the situation and says rookie status should not have an influence over the defense's ability to perform.

"It's not a factor, I mean obviously people are going to look at it as a factor, but the coaches wouldn't put us out there if we weren't ready and fully capable," he said. "It's nice at practice when you get yelled at. Myself, Glenn and Dunta all get yelled at. That's better than me just getting yelled at I guess."

Things looked bad after an 0-2 start, but pulling out a win in Kansas City against an offense filled with weapons pumped more life into the fledgling defense.

"We got our first win with three rookies on defense," Robinson said. "It's a good thing. We just try to go out there and learn something new every week and take what we learned from the past games and carry it over to the next game."

Robinson and Babin are veterans compared to Earl.

They were penciled in to the starting lineup the moment they were drafted in April. Earl was sidelined with a knee injury for most of training camp and broke into Sunday's lineup when strong safety Eric Brown injured his knee.

Starting even one rookie on defense is less than ideal, but the Texans have little choice. In 19 years in the National Football League, Texans defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has never coached so many rookie starters.

Last week just 15 rookies started across the entire league.

"It's getting there," he said. "It's a work in progress. I do think we'll get better as the season goes on.

"I think they're improving on their errors but still it's just a process with the rookies and each an every guy is a little bit different how fast they advance. But at some point they will start feeling comfortable."

Ultimately each Texans rookie has to treat their situation as an individual battle. Football is a team game, but it pays to be hard on yourself.

It's like taking your brain through the film room.

"Everybody's perspective is different," Earl said. "I think to be a good player you have to be your worst critic. I definitely am. I make a couple of good plays and I look back and think those could have been great plays if I did something different."

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