Week two of preseason played out as head coach Gary Kubiak expected. Kubiak has gotten the Texans off the ground and is now looking to steer his team in the right direction as the regular season approaches. Sunday afternoon Kubiak spoke about mistakes that still need to be taken care of before the team takes off.
"We had some opportunities early in the game to make some big plays and be very productive and we didn't do that, that was disappointing," Kubiak said. "You have an agenda and there's something you're trying to accomplish. We had some opportunities to really get off to a great start and make some big plays and we didn't handle those situations. We've got to, as a group, go back and address that tomorrow to make sure that we're headed in the right direction."
On a positive note, Kubiak was pleased with certain aspects of the offensive game such as quarterback David Carr's performance, the running game and overall ball protection. Again, Kubiak stressed the importance of fixing those mistakes as a team for Carr to be able to perform well.
"Early in the game David got a few plays that he has to make for our team to give us a chance to get off to a great start," Kubiak said. "He needs some help to make those plays. There are situations where he's got to get the ball to a few receivers, we have to protect him a little better and then we have to make those plays when they're there. I saw the same thing (as last week), but I did see him settle down and play well in the second quarter. He did a good job right before the second half. He did calm down from that standpoint, but we have to get the front-end corrected."
With veteran running back Domanick Davis still out, Saturday night provided another opportunity for other running backs to step up. Wali Lundy proved to be a stellar runner his first time out and this week he was presented with another challenge when Vernard Morency took on the role of the leading man in the running game. Morency not only verified his ability to run, but also demonstrated that he's paying close attention to what Kubiak has been asking from him.
"I like the way Vernard he got the ball downhill," Kubiak said. "It's something we've been preaching to him. One of the things I was impressed with, he's struggled with pass protection at camp, understanding schemes and protections and blocking schemes, he's had some mistakes. He was mistake free in that department of the game. That's always very aggressive, cutting people on a couple of blitzes, you have to be able to do that at the back. He did some good stuff, he wore down a little bit, we want him to be able to go all day. But it was encouraging to see him play well."
Kubiak is expecting to continue the rotation of two or three running backs next week against the Denver Broncos. Who the official starter will be depends on who engages the most on the complexity of the assignments.
"People are going to come get you in this league," Kubiak said. "A back has to step back and take on a linebacker, sometimes they have to go back and cut a defensive end. But they have to hold up long enough to get that ball going and not only holding up, but being smart enough with all the fronts and stuff that they understand their assignments. You have to be the total package when you go back there."
One of the areas Kubiak expressed interest in looking at further was the left side of the offensive line. Rookie left tackle Charles Spencer took the starting position against the Rams, but Kubiak is far from naming a starter for the regualr season.
"We saw what we felt was going to happen to Spencer," Kubiak said. "He did some good things, but he struggled getting off the ball, he was late off the ball. He struggled in a foreign stadium like that, not in his comfort zone. We had some busts, but when you're asking a rookie tackle to do that, you're asking for some growing pains, but we love his effort, we love his upside and he's headed in the direction we thought he'd be headed.
"You might see Ephraim (Salamm) get a few reps at left tackle, and see (Eric) Winston get a few reps, as well. The experimental stage is over, and now we have to get better at what we're doing."
"Chester is going to stay at guard for us if we're going to win," Kubiak said "He's in a battle right now to start with (Steve) McKinney and (Fred) Weary, so he'll continue to get better as a guard for our football team and I don't see him going out. In between those three, two of those guys are going to start on opening day. I think that's veteran competition, we've said that since day one. Chester has done a good job, he did some things better this week, but he's got to continue getting better for us. Who those two will be out of those three I don't know, I think we have three starters there, but they only let you put two on opening day so who those two will be we'll wait and see."
On the defensive side of the ball, rookie defensive end Mario Williams has had to deal with plenty of changes to his position this week. According to Kubiak, the changes are necessary for his development and he responsed positively to those challenges his second time out on the field.
"He progressed this week," Kubiak said. "He did some good stuff, we moved him around once again, but he was not as hesitant alignment-wise, assignment-wise, that's starting to lock-in for him. He was disruptive pushing the pocket, knocked a couple balls down, made a very nice play one time on a stunt. He showed up more individually and athletically in what he's doing. That's only going to get better because when he quits thinking so much, he can just settle down and play and his ability's going to come out more and more. We see him getting more comfortable doing that. That's definitely a step in the right direction for him.
"It's tougher (to move him around). But there's a time that we got to find out how much he can handle and how much he can do and this is the time to do it. We get going here in a few weeks, we'll get him reps at both spots. He's handled that stuff, that hasn't been much of a problem and hopefully that makes us better as a defense if we can move him around. Like I said if we're going to experiment, this is the time to do it."
"(They) did some good things, but they have to continue to get better, as all of us do," Kubiak said. "Buchanan looked like it was his first time out. We want him to make more plays on the ball when he's in position. He did a good job as a returner, that should be a strength of his in this league, but we have to step up and make some plays on the ball. I think he got tired, that was his first time out compared to everybody else."
This week will prove a challenge as the team will begin to prepare on quick turnarounds between games in the regular season.
Fortunately for the Texans, injuries were not a concern. Defensive end Jason Babin suffered a bruised hip during Saturday's game. Domanick Davis will continue to be out this week to continue treatment. Steve McKinney, who did not play against the Rams, is expected to be back from an ankle injury this week, as well as cornerback Lewis Sanders and free safety Jason Simmons.
Kubiak hopes the rest of the team continues to stay healthy and be ready to play next Sunday in Denver.