The Texans head into the bye week on a five-game losing streak, but they also limp in needing to fill four vacant roster spots.
Linebacker Brian Cushing's 2013 campaign is over after suffering a knee injury that will require surgery this week. He will likely be placed on the injured reserve very soon. Plus, the team released three rookies in defensive end Sam Montgomery, running back Cierre Wood and outside linebacker Willie Jefferson.
Head coach Gary Kubiak said the Texans will move rookie linebacker Justin Tuggle from an inside spot to the backup strongside outside linebacker position behind Brooks Reed. Because of that move, in union with the Cushing injury, as well as veteran Tim Dobbins' strained hamstring, the defense has been thinned out in the middle. Darryl Sharpton will now start in Cushing's absence alongside Joe Mays.
"Inside linebacker is something we've got to address as a team right now," Kubiak said. "So we've got some rebuilding to do inside." Tuggle, Dobbins, Wood and Jefferson have all seen action on special teams this season, and
Kubiak said that phase of the team needs help. For now, the position switch, injuries and roster moves have depleted special teams coordinator Joe Marciano's coverage units.
"We have some special teams issues," Kubiak. "The moves we make have got to be special teams-oriented to help Joe. So that's some things we've got to address here in the next few days."
Running back Arian Foster left the loss at Kansas City in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, and backup Ben Tate played through rib injuries. Finding another running back capable of contributing is a priority, and the team might not have to search too far.
"We've got a young man who we've been very impressed with," Kubiak said. "Ray Graham's been practicing really well for us."
Graham, an undrafted rookie out of Pittsburgh, has been on the practice squad. During the preseason, he played in three games and finished with 29 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. Kubiak, however, said it wasn't a guarantee that Graham would be elevated to the 53-man roster.