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Top of 2007 draft class shines


Rookie wide receiver Jacoby Jones and the rest of the top of Houston's 2007 draft class were outsanding in the Texans' 28-16 victory over the Cowboys.

On the biggest stage of their fledgling pro careers, the Texans' rookies put on quite a show. In front of a Houston preseason record crowd of 70,512 that included Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the Texans' first three draft picks of 2007 made general manager Rick Smith look like a bona fide genius with big performances that helped the Texans defeat the Cowboys, 28-16, and take home the coveted Governor's Cup.

There was the headliner, Jacoby Jones, whose highlight-reel plays have been as much a fixture of the Texans' three preseason games as the National Anthem. On the heels of Jones' first two impressive preseason outings, all the third-round draft-day gem did for an encore was return a first quarter punt 91 yards for a touchdown, the longest in Texans preseason history, and then snag his first NFL touchdown reception, a leaping 19-yarder in the corner of the end zone. Quarterback Matt Schaub, who was on the throwing end of that touchdown, had glowing remarks about Jones after the game.

"It was great to see him do that during the first preseason game, and then when he followed that up last week and then this week again with great performances, it just shows his maturity and confidence level," Schaub said. "He definitely has a level head about him. It's great to see that we can count on him every week."

{QUOTE} And while the Cowboys didn't fare well against Jones' blazing speed on Saturday, the Texans' other top two draft picks trailed right behind him with stellar performances of their own. Cornerback Fred Bennett, the Texans' fourth-round pick out of South Carolina, gave the Cowboys a taste of what he had shown Texans coaches during an impressive training camp. Bennett threw a key block on Jones' punt return touchdown (for the second game in a row), and on his first play from scrimmage at the start of the second half, he got between two Dallas Pro Bowlers on a pass from Tony Romo intended for Terrell Owens – and came away with his first career interception.

"(Romo) kind of looked at me when we were in the huddle," Bennett said. "He kind of gave me a little smirk. I knew right then he was coming at me. I knew it was going to be a deep ball, and our coaches had us in the right call at the right time and I just had a good judgment on the ball and played the ball really well."

And then there was Amobi Okoye. The Louisville product and 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft had three tackles and got in on his first NFL sack, assisting linebacker Shantee Orr on a takedown of Romo to close out the first half. Afterward, Okoye said he's starting to feel more and more like he belongs in the NFL.

"I feel good every game," Okoye said. "I feel like I improve myself, and it's something where I've just got to keep on going. I feel a lot of growth as far as game-by-game getting better and just challenging myself. My confidence gets better and better each game."

That confidence is running through the veins of this solid rookie class. Bennett wasn't the least bit intimidated by one of the league's most talented quarterback-receiver tandems.

"It's all football to me," Bennett said. "Just lining up across from (Owens) for the couple of plays I did, I've got much respect for him. But it's all football to me, and I've just got that confidence and I was really, really relaxed tonight, so that helped a lot.

"I'm ready for everything – every game, any game, no matter where we're at. I'm just ready."

And these rookies – Jones, who credits his teammates' blocking before discussing his spectacular plays; and Okoye and Bennett, who talk about the team more than their individual performances – aren't letting the beginnings of NFL stardom get to their respective heads.

"We're just going to come in and do what our team needs us to do," Bennett said. "We're not trying to come out here and get the hot head, the big head. We've got much respect for our vets, and we're just going to do what our coaches and our team need us to do."

That's been the strategy so far, and it had Texans fans in a frenzy Saturday night. Jones, meanwhile, is in a daze more than anything else.

"Don't pinch me, man," Jones said. "Let me keep dreaming. I don't want to wake up. It's the kind of thing you dream of when you're a little boy and you're watching them play on TV, and (now) you're really doing that."

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