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Top 5 surprises of training camp

1) Jacoby Jones – During mini-camp, Jones looked slightly undisciplined in his route-running and didn't catch the ball consistently. In training camp, not only has he caught everything thrown his way, but he's displayed a penchant for big plays that has carried over into games.

Coach Gary Kubiak goes on and on about Jones, whose ascent has been remarkable considering the level of competition he faced at Lane College less than a year ago. Additionally, how many rookies become starting punt returners? It's rare, but Jones appears to have the inside track on the job, which shows just how much Kubiak and special teams coordinator Joe Marciano trust their third-round draft pick.

2) Jerome Mathis – Constantly injured and with limited reps at wide receiver over the past year, Jerome Mathis had some odds stacked against him entering training camp even with a Pro Bowl under his belt.

Something must have clicked in Mathis' head, because he looks completely refreshed. He has stayed on the field. He has full use of his greatest asset, which is pure speed. And most surprisingly, he seems to have refined his receiving skills. Never before has he caught balls as cleanly as he has this preseason.

The result? Mathis appears locked in as the Texans' kick returner, and he could end up being the team's third receiver.

3) Zac Diles – If anyone questions what the most important quality in a linebacker is, watching rookie Zac Diles play should end any debate. Undersized at 6-0, 240 pounds with limited athleticism, Diles makes play after play thanks to his natural football instincts. Diles stays ahead by diagnosing plays quicker than most rookies, which leads to him being around the ball more often than not.

Kubiak credits the seventh-round draft pick with being one of the team's most well-conditioned players. Behind DeMeco Ryans, Diles is proving to be a more than suitable backup at middle linebacker, which says a lot considering most seventh-round picks are destined for the practice squad, or the waiver wire.

4) Dexter Wynn – Defensive backs coach Jon Hoke pointed out cornerback Dexter Wynn early in camp as one of the players that is performing well. It seems like Wynn is expanding his game more. Whereas he used to be known solely for his return skills, he now is becoming an asset in the secondary.

Throughout training camp, Wynn was a ball-hawking cover corner. Against Arizona, Wynn carried his practice habits onto the field with an interception late in the game. It meant so much to him that he carried the ball onto the team plane with him.

Even if Mathis and Jones are locked up as the kick returner and punt returner, respectively, Wynn still could have a spot on the team as the dime back.

Jamar Fletcher, Fred Bennett and Tyrone Poole all are in the mix, but Wynn has shown that he belongs in the conversation with his impressive camp.

5) Jeb Putzier – With sneaky speed, sure hands and a penchant for finding seams in the defense, Jeb Putzier is a perfect fit for Kubiak's offense. Now that's he has slimmed down from last year, he should be an even bigger factor in the passing game.

Time and again this preseason, Putzier has made outstanding catches and shown excellent bursts of speed after the catch. Look for him to total at least 30 receptions this year with two or more touchdown catches.

Honorable mention:

*Kris Brown – What more can he do? He's nailed all of his field goals this preseason.

*Sage Rosenfels – If anything should happen to Matt Schaub – let's hope it doesn't – the Texans know they can count on Rosenfels to step in without missing a step. How many NFL teams are in the same position?

*Fred Bennett – Can't beat him with speed, can't bully him with size. This rookie is earning some respect among his peers thanks to his playmaking skills in the secondary. Another promising draft pick made by general manager Rick Smith.


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