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Training camp practice report - Day 16


Quarterback Matt Schaub scrambles towards the endzone during a goal line drill Tuesday morning.

Workout day: The Texans hosted three free agent defensive backs for workouts Tuesday at the Methodist Training Center as the team continued its search to replace the two players lost for the season Saturday, safety Glenn Earl and cornerback Jason Horton. Texans general manager Rick Smith emphasized that any potential signing will be based on a player's talent level rather than a simple need to get an additional camp body.

"We've only got a few guys working out here this afternoon," Texans general manager Rick Smith said. "We'll see what they look like. It doesn't necessarily mean that we absolutely are going to sign anybody. We'll work them out and see where we go from there."

Smith did confirm that safety Shaun Williams, who last season started 12 games for the Carolina Panthers, was one of the three players in Houston for a workout Tuesday. Williams was a 1998 first-round pick out of UCLA and has 15 career interceptions over his nine season career with Carolina and the New York Giants. Smith was asked what he liked in Williams by the media after practice.

"Experience, he's an athlete, and a smart guy," Smith said. "We want to see what his physical conditioning looks like and where he is athletically, but his history is a good one."

Smith feels that the elevated play of reserves like defensive back Von Hutchins and cornerback Dexter Wynn, especially in light of Saturday's injuries, speaks well of the team's depth.

"Obviously, if you lose a starter and you feel good about it, having a guy go in there, then that proves that you've got a decent amount of depth." Smith said. "The problem with depth is that the more you dig into it, the less it is, so we'll keep working."

"Assassin's" time to play: Linebacker Danny Clark has made such a strong impression in his first training camp with the Texans that he already is challenging linebacker Charlie Anderson for first-team playing time at outside linebacker, according to Kubiak.

"He is pushing Charlie (Anderson) really hard for his job and he deserves a chance to get in there with the ones," Kubiak said. "He was really special the other night. He did some really good stuff."

Kubiak was speaking of Clark's performance Saturday night, when he made quite an impact on special teams.

"Eleven out of the 12 plays on special teams were super," Kubiak said of Clark. "He would have been our special teams player of the game, him or Kris (Brown). He's basically telling you as a coach, 'Hey, get me on the field some more,' so we're going to give him that chance to do that."

Clark, nicknamed "Dan the Assassin" by teammates, is coming off a season with New Orleans where he did not record a start for the first time since his rookie season in 2000. Although he won't resort to "knocking off" his competitors, Clark is looking to do whatever he can to climb the depth chart and earn a starting spot.

"I understand that I started off second on the depth chart when I got into camp (here)," Clark said. "Once I get it, I'm not going to let it go. At the end of the day, I've got to fight for what I want."

Still, Clark doesn't want his determination to earn starting time to shroud his belief in collective success and teamwork.

"It's all about (the) team, though," Clark said. "I can't sit and talk to you guys about myself longer than five seconds. I'm a big fan of a team guy. I want to help us win."

Dialed in: No one needs to tell rookie linebacker Zac Diles, a seventh round draft pick out of Kansas State, that the odds are against seventh-rounders making an active NFL roster. Still, a dedication to hard work and consistent play on defense and special teams has begun to shift those odds in his favor, according to head coach Gary Kubiak.

"Zac's been here every day. He's a very steady player and the things he did on the practice field, he went and did in the stadium on Saturday night, so I think we know we can count on this kid," Kubiak said. "I think he's pushing hard to get on the field awful quick, so we'll see. That's a big step to take, but if the kid keeps doing what he's doing, we're going to have to find a way to get him out there."

Despite the praise from his top boss, Diles knows that he must maintain a certain level of humility to find the success he desires on the field.

"Seventh round or first round, we are all getting the chance," Diles said. "You gotta stay humble. You hear what they say but you can't let that get to your head. You have to let that go through one ear and out the other and then come out here the next day and work hard."

As for why someone as skilled as Diles fell all the way to the seventh round, Smith pointed to Diles' height. Luckily for the Texans, they worried less about measurements and more about intangibles when choosing Diles, leaving them with a potential seventh-round steal.

"He's a little small that way, height-wise, but he's an excellent football player," Smith said. "He's got good instincts, and he's just a good fit for us, so I'm pleased that he was there in the seventh round. He doesn't have the prototypical size and speed but he's got instincts, and he's got good enough athleticism and speed."

Kingpin: Entering the final frame of the Texans' 2007 training camp Bowling Derby Monday night, rookie defensive end Victor DeGrate knew that he was bowling well. He had just hit a run of strikes on frames three through eight before sparing frame nine. But when a teammate told him that there was more than just pride on the line, DeGrate stepped into gear.

"I didn't even know they were giving out prizes," DeGrate said. "I was just having fun. Then, before the last three bowls of the 10th frame they said, 'If you get these, you get the TV.' So I went out and got all strikes.

DeGrate's perfect 10th frame put him at a score of 235 for the night and earned him a 42-inch plasma TV. The 6-3, 250-pounder's final number was a tremendous improvement over his previous personal high of 171.

"That was my first time ever bowling that high," DeGrate said. "I guess I kind of hit a lucky streak."

In the overall competition, the offense finished in first place, with the defensive team second and coaches finishing third. This victory marked the offense's first ever win in the competition, as the defense had won the previous two Bowling Derbies.

Injury report: Wide receiver Andre Johnson participated in light positional drills during the beginning of practice, but he sat out during team activities. Kubiak said the decision was just a precautionary measure.

Defensive end Jason Babin and cornerback Dexter Wynn also did not participate. Kubiak said that Babin was nursing a slight calf injury, while Smith said that Wynn tweaked his knee on Monday.

Fullback Jameel Cook, who practiced for the first time during training camp Monday, passed a physical and was removed from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list Tuesday afternoon.

Miscellaneous: Jason Simmons will play in Glenn Earl's spot at strong safety and C.C. Brown will continue to start at free safety, Kubiak said after practice Monday. Kubiak cited Simmons' performance when he replaced Earl against Chicago as well as his previous experience at both free and strong safety as reasons for the decision…defensive lineman Tim Bulman and offensive lineman Drew Hodgdon were truly battling in the trenches on Tuesday. On one play, both players' helmets were dislodged on a running play while the action continued around them. Bulman continued to pursue the ball carrier but luckily he wasn't forced to make a tackle without his headgear on…Matt Turk looked impressive during the special teams segment of Tuesday morning's practice. He consistently boomed punts in the 55-65 yard range in sweltering outdoor conditions…Jamar Fletcher had an impressive interception, hauling in a Sage Rosenfels pass and returning it at least 30 yards.

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