Texans, Redskins looking in the mirror

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The Texans venture into new territory to play the Washington Redskins on Sunday but there will be plenty of familiar faces, almost like each team is looking in a mirror.

Oh look, there's Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. He was the Texans' offensive coordinator the past two seasons. There's his father Mike, a mentor and long-time friend of Texans coach Gary Kubiak.

"He's a Hall of Fame coach and I'm glad to see him back in the game," Kubiak said of the elder Shanahan. "For me sitting at home watching him there and getting after it again, it's a good feeling. But he's got a fine football team and, obviously, some of our (former) coaches are there."

Washington special teams assistant Richard Hightower is from Houston and a former Texans assistant. Safeties coach Steve Jackson is from Houston and played for the Oilers. Strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright formerly held the same position with the Texans. Redskins quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur formerly worked for the Texans.

In addition to Kubiak, Texans defensive coordinator Frank Bush, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, defensive backs coach David Gibbs, tight ends coach Brian Pariani and wide receivers coach Larry Kirksey all were on Mike Shanahan's staff at Denver.

They'll get it all sorted AFTER the game.

"Heck, neither one of us likes to talk much anyway, so we'll talk after the game," Kubiak said of his relationship with Mike Shanahan.

It's clear there is plenty of admiration on both sides.

"I'm so happy for him because I think everybody can see the job he has done," Mike Shanahan said of Kubiak. "It doesn't happen overnight when you build things the right way. I think that's what Gary has done. He's done things the right way. It seems like this team handles itself the right way with a lot of class and it looks like they built quite a team up."

Shanahan sees Kubiak's progress from his assistant coaching time at Denver.

"As a head football coach, you're constantly learning," Shanahan said. "I'm constantly learning right now, but you do learn to delegate more and you know it's a combination of knowing a lot of good people all going in the same direction because nobody can do it by themselves."

Friends or not, the game must be played.

"I mean, bottom line, when it's time to play, we've got to line up and our team's got to play," Kubiak said. "I'm sure there will be a lot of talk about that during the week because of us working together for so many years, but once they blow the whistle, it's players against players, so they'll play the game."

Kyle Shanahan certainly knows the Texans' offense and defense and he's passed along a few notes that might help the Redskins players. Still, he's not placing too much emphasis on his inside knowledge.

"I don't think it's as much of a chess match," he said. "I think it'll be a pretty simple game. It's going to be our players against their players. There's not going to be much more schematically. It's going to be which players do the best.

"They know what I like. They know what I don't think is good that they do and vice versa. We know how to attack each other, so there's no secret about what we like to do."

Texans offensive tackle Eric Winston says he'll be watching closely.

"Hopefully I won't be shouting too much from the sidelines what the play's going to be," Winston said. "I know what they teach those offensive linemen and how they're going to line up, but they know the same thing about us.

"That's most of the time in the NFL. There are no secrets and this game is going to be no different."

Kyle Shanahan called offensive plays last season for the Texans before he was replaced by Dennison. That could be a concern against the Redskins, but it's not the only worry.

"It'll be our first road test and I know it's a tough place to play there," Kubiak said. "My players here have never been there. I will have to sit there and explain to them that it's a big place and very loud. There's a lot of excitement going on with that football team with Mike being there.

"We are going to be tested from a composure standpoint and it'll be big time. I'll say that's the biggest thing (I'm concerned about) and their complex offense.

"Kyle knows our defense like the back of his hand. He's been going against (our defense) for two years and yet we have to switch over to (playing) the 3-4 this week. So there's a lot of those types of things going on."

Of course, the Texans know Kyle, too. Maybe that will help?

"I hope so," quarterback Matt Schaub said. "Obviously, we still have to line up to win and go and beat the guy across from you; execute your plan whether it be defensively or offensively. It's a tough place to play on the road but we were a decent road team last year and we have to continue that."

Kubiak is impressed with what his old boss has done in a short time with the Redskins.

"The thing I'm impressed with is they played some really good teams here in the preseason," Kubiak said. "They played Baltimore, they played the Jets and obviously started off with Dallas at home. They've got a lot of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. This will be the second week in a row we're going to play one of the great quarterbacks in this league.

"Defensively, it's a tough scheme for us. Jim Haslett's scheme presents a lot of problems for you, so we've got our work cut out for us."

The Texans riddled the Colts' defense a week ago. Now they must gear up for a different challenge. The Texans' offensive line will try to do what it did against the Colts:
Open big holes for Arian Foster, who ran for 231 yards on 31 carries and scored three touchdowns against Indianapolis.

"That's what we're about, getting the skill guy's name in the paper," Winston said. "That's what we do."

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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