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Slaton, Brown get first dose of the NFL


The seven rookies drafted by the Texans quickly learned that there is no easing into the NFL.

Left tackle Duane Brown, the 26th overall pick, played with the first team over veteran Ephraim Salaam and faced defensive end Mario Williams during individual drills and scrimmages.

"They threw me out there in the fire with the 1's going against Mario and the first-team defense," Brown said. "It doesn't get any worse than that, just going against them. It can really bring you up to speed really quickly."

Brown has not been declared the starter officially, but head coach Gary Kubiak said he wanted to see if Brown has what it takes to excel in the zone blocking scheme that assistant head coach Alex Gibbs is installing.

"He'll be working with the first group, and that's the only way we're going to find out if this kid's going to get to where we want him to go and how quick he can get there," Kubiak said. "You draft these kids in the first round to come in and play, and that's nothing against Ephraim, as I said, and we've had this conversation. I understand the difficulty in that, but we as coaches feel like we have to put this kid to work right away."

{QUOTE}Brown, who has only one year of experience at left tackle, realizes he has little margin for error if he wants to start under Kubiak and Gibbs.

"I know I can't have many bad reps," Brown said. "After one practice, they'll let you get your feet wet, but after that they expect me to pick it up, so I have to come back next practice and show what I can do."

Aside from trying to fend off Williams, Brown tried to absorb as much as he could from watching tackles Eric Winston and Charles Spencer, whom the Texans are considering moving from left tackle to the inside.

"Some guys treat you like a rookie," Brown said. "Some of them take you in and show you things. Some of the things, you just have to learn on your own."

Running back Steve Slaton showed he could be the third-down back the Texans need. The third-round draft pick from West Virginia caught passes out of the backfield and looked comfortable in Gibbs' offensive system.

"I think this is a great fit," Slaton said. "Alex Gibbs is in here running the zone scheme, and I ran a lot of that in college."

On several rushes, Slaton did his best Tiki Barber impression, carrying the ball high and tight.

"I think it's a good comparison because later in his career he found a way to hold the ball better," Slaton said. "He had less fumbles. I I hope I can have none."

For cornerback Antwaun Molden, the biggest difference between college and the NFL was coaching style.

"On every level, you have to adapt to the environment, and it's a hostile environment out here," Molden said. "It's very up-tempo, very up-beat and that's how it is around here. It's a great organization and a great coaching staff, and you have to adapt to that."

The third-round draft pick from Eastern Kentucky had defensive backs coach Jon Hoke in his ear and assistant defensive backs coach Ray Rhodes evaluating his every step. They would like to see Molden develop into a starter who can help carry the load opposite second-year pro Fred Bennett.

Linebacker Xavier Adibi, who finished his senior year at Virginia Tech with 115 tackles, will have a chance to compete for a starting spot at strong side linebacker.

"I'm somebody who has a constant motor," Adibi said. "I'm always going to be around the ball and I'm somebody that can come up and stop the run as well as go back into coverage and cover anybody I can cover."

But the rookie also said he had a lot to learn, which was why he paid close attention starting linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Morlon Greenwood.

"First of all, just seeing them play, I see why they are the starters," Adibi said. "They are a very talented. I'm just trying to learn everything that I can. I'm just trying to be a sponge and suck up everything I can from those guys and just try to make myself a better player."

Defensive tackle Frank Okam said his welcome to the Texans was a loud one with defensive line coach Jethro Franklin in his face. Franklin doesn't mince words, but he knows how to make young players better. The massive Okam already was learning his role on the team.

"So far, my role is to clog the middle for the linebackers so they can make plays," Okam said. "And when my chance comes, make a play in the backfield, so you split those double teams. Basically, I need to hold down the run and make a lot of pressure in the passing game."

Okam, a fifth-round pick from Texas, said he had already learned a lot from second-year defensive tackle Amobi Okoye.

"He's a guy who really works hard and takes pride in his work ethic," Okam said. "He's a technician, and that's one thing I strive to be. Everyone is telling me the big difference from the college level to the pro level is the technique level, so if I can become a better technician, I can become a better player."

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