Back in the saddle: The spotlight may have faded slightly on Texans 2006 first-round pick Mario Williams, but the expectations have not.
Williams is healthy again after being plagued by a foot injury a year ago that slowed his progression as an elite pass rusher in the NFL. The foot is healed now and Williams has a new perspective on the expectations that were placed on him a year ago.
"I'm not worried about that now," he said. "Everything is under my belt now as far as the system goes. I'm just trying to make everything easier and come out here every day and try and get better."
Williams looked good in drills Wednesday during the Texans first of several OTA's (Organized Team Activities). His head coach is just one of many people that were happy to see Williams back at full speed.
"It's awesome because it's the guy that we saw the first day we got started last year," Gary Kubiak said. "Jethro (Franklin) and Frank (Bush) are getting after him down there and he's got to feel really good about those two guys working with him everyday.
"But it's nice to see him walking around like himself."
Despite injury, Williams was shuffled along the defensive line in 2006 to capitalize on his athleticism. In the process, Williams became good at several spots, but not great at any. Perhaps it's for that reason that Williams will find himself solely at right defensive end in 2007.
"We would like to settle Mario down," Kubiak said Wednesday. "Mario is going to work on the right exclusively at this point right now.
"With us acquiring Amobi (Okoye) then that lets (Anthony) Weaver play outside, so we feel like with Jason (Babin), Weav and Mario, we've got guys that can play outside.
"We want to keep Mario in one spot, we want to do that through OTAs. We'll always do what's best for our football team, but right now what's best for Mario is that he stays in one spot."
New kids on the block: There were several new faces in the offensive huddle Wednesday. Other than quarterback Matt Schaub, two newcomers who should play big roles in 2007 on offense are running back Ahman Green and tackle Jordan Black
For Green, the adjustment to Houston's offense has been a relatively smooth one and he was happy to be focused back on football instead of relocating his life.
"It's going good," Green said. "The running scheme is coming to me. Out here on the football field is the easy part. Moving, that's the hard part. Moving furniture, getting your TV's hooked up, XBOX, getting that hooked up, that's done. The easy part is coming out here and running this offense and getting to know my teammates better."
Houston's offense is a hybrid of Kubiak's scheme from Denver and assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Mike Sherman's scheme from Green Bay.
The fact that Green has experience in both systems makes for a small learning curve.
"I had a rare opportunity to be with coach Sherman at one point in my career and then coach (Mike) McCarthey, who ran the Denver offense," Green said. "I can just come out and play football and not think too much out here."
It didn't take long for the new running back to draw praise from his new head coach either.
"You watch Ahman bounce around and run zones that he's been running for 10 years. It's very impressive," Kubiak said.
For Black, the transition has not been as easy.
"Personally, my top priority right now is just to get the offense down," he said. "I had a couple of false starts today trying to get use to the quarterback's cadence."
Black wasn't too upset with the a somewhat rocky start. He expected it and also doubts it will take him long to get into a rhythm with his new teammates.
"It shouldn't take too long," Black said. "It's just day one, there's always going to be some rusty spots, but I'll get them shaked off here soon."
Raising the bar: While no player is eager to predict a playoff spot in 2007, it was pretty clear Wednesday that the expectation level for the Texans has been raised. A .500 record would be nice, a playoff berth much nicer.
For their part, the players are showing the coaches that they have no limits to what they want to accomplish this fall.
"We talk about expectations and we talk about wanting to be a playoff football team, and that is what we should be out here for," Kubiak said. "If we're working for anything else we're just spinning our wheels and we're not going to do that. I can sense that. I can sense it from our players, the way they practiced and what they expected out of each other.
"There is a lot of respect among our veteran players out here and the new guys we brought in. I can sense that today. But I told them the key is 'are we doing that a week from now?' We did it good today, but how are we going to do it over the course of the month."