The Texans moved up their one and only practice Saturday morning by a half hour in order to allow the team to take advantage a much-needed afternoon off, but the team still had a productive workout in shoulderpads and helmets, according to head coach Gary Kubiak.
"We had good work," Kubiak said. "We needed to hit on a bunch of things and bang around a little bit. I like the way they came out so we'll have a break today and tomorrow, and we'll get back to work Monday morning."
Injuries on the line: With all five starters returning to a Texans offensive line that contributed to the league's third-ranked offensive attack, Kubiak expected the position group to be one of strength in 2009. Although his opinion hasn't shifted drastically away form that viewpoint, he is concerned about the effect of recent injuries to starters Chester Pitts and Chris Myers will have on the unit's preseason preparation. Pitts has sat out much of training camp with an injury to his shoulder, while Myers suffered a high-ankle sprain on Wednesday that will sideline him for two-to-four weeks.
"When five guys play every snap like that, it brings a mentality to your football team, so that's been really special," Kubiak said. "They should only get better, but the problem right now is that they haven't been working together… Now that can make you better, because guys can step up, but they are missing some valuable continuity right now."
Kubiak said that Pitts should be cleared for non-contact drills soon, paving the way for him to participate in full contact practices after that. Both Myers and Pitts are not expected to miss any of the regular season, and Kubiak hopes that both can get significant action in the final two preseason games in order to knock off the rust before the season opener against the Jets.
Man of many talents: Tight end James Casey drew significant pre-draft attention with his multi-positional abilities at Rice, where the former minor league baseball player saw time at quarterback, running back, tight end, receiver and defensive end. So it shouldn't be a huge shock that he's trying his hand at one more position at Texans training camp—long snapper. As few NFL teams regularly carry four tight ends on their rosters, Kubiak hopes that Casey can find success as a long snapper in addition to his offensive duties, saving a valuable roster spot to be used at another position.
"He shows flashes that he can do it at our level, and then he shows times that he struggles, so we're going to put him under fire in the preseason," Kubiak said. "We'll give him some good work here against New Orleans when we practice against New Orleans, but if our fourth tight end was our snapper, like a guy like James, then that adds a roster spot to our team, so we'll see."
Always consistent Andre: Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson's national notoriety has certainly been on the rise after his tremendous 2008 campaign, as evidenced by his role in a new national commercial for Dick's Sporting Goods, but his consistency at the wide receiver position has long amazed his head coach.
"It seems like we say this every year, but I'm not sure that he doesn't look as good as I've ever seen him look," Kubiak said. "Just conditioning wise, making every play. He's special. I tell ya'll every time, you're watching something special watching this guy's career, because he's as good as I've been around."
Notes: With injuries in the secondary, Fred Bennett will be counted on to carry a big load for the Texans defense, and his play Saturday in practice seemed to indicate that he's up for the task. Bennett made an instinct read on a Matt Schaub pass intended for Andre Johnson, jumping the route and snaring an interception that likely would have gone for a touchdown in a game scenario…During the return on the play, tackle Duane Brown complained to linebacker Brian Cushing that he had blocked him in the back illegally, but Cushing waved off the claim and responded with a firm 'No Way.'…wide receiver Jacoby Jones continued his sharp training camp by running a deceptive crossing route on a play action pass during a red zone drill. Coupled with an excellent play fake from quarterback Dan Orlovsky, Jones found himself wide open in the back left corner of the end zone for an easy score….on the injury front, wide receiver Darnell Jenkins suffered a minor bruise on his leg, but he should be OK to practice on Monday. Kubiak said he was glad the team had the remainder of the weekend off in order to heal up the series of nicks, bumps and bruises that have sidelined a number of Texans players recently.