Cornerback Dunta Robinson keeps a close eye on wide receiver Andre Johnson during practice Saturday. Robinson says that he tries to match himself up with Johnson during every practice rep to improve his skills.
Quality, contact football: In what was probably the most physical practice of training camp, the Texans ran through a lively full pad practice Saturday morning that was heavy on big hits and big plays. With no afternoon practice and an off day for players on Sunday, coach Gary Kubiak was more than happy to see a high level of intensity from his players.
"I think we came out here, we wanted to bang a little bit, have some enthusiasm and that's what we had," Kubiak said. "I think our defense continued for two hours. Offensively, I think we did it for about an hour, and we've got to find a way to do it for two. They knew that's what I wanted this morning. I liked it, the enthusiasm we practiced with."
At numerous points during practice, players could be seen helmet to helmet, arguing about a hard hit or a blown play. Although no fights broke out, the team's offensive and defensive units were loudly cheering on their counterparts, making for a lively practice for the 3,215 fans in attendance. With a certain intensity in the air, Kubiak was satisfied with the play of his team, who will face the Chicago Bears in their preseason opener in one week.
"I saw aggression," Kubiak said. "I saw a lot of physical play. I saw respect. If you're going to be a good football team, that's what it's got to be. If we're going to come out here and bang on each other, and hit each other in the mouth, it can't turn into a bunch of jawing and a bunch of problems on the field, because you lose focus on what you're doing. I didn't see that. I think our guys were getting loud and talking a little bit to each other, but nobody lost focus of their job. They respect each other. They're trying to get each other ready to play."
Cornerback Dunta Robinson, who prides himself on physical play, felt that the final practice of the week was a great tool to prepare the team for the real games ahead.
"If you are going to put the pads on, you might as well use them," Robinson said. "If we are going to be out here you might as well have some fun. Guys are just flying around making plays. It's nothing personal, we just want to give each other game speed looks, and that's what we're doing."
Anderson's ascendance: Linebacker Charlie Anderson hasn't recorded a start in his three-year career with the Texans. But if his production in training camp is indicative of the future, that statistic may need to be revised, according to Kubiak.
"When I look at the defensive side of the ball, I think Charlie Anderson's really separated himself," Kubiak said. "When you look at the linebacker group, you look at Morlon (Greenwood), you look at DeMeco (Ryans), and you look at Charlie. Then right away you go to Zac Diles, and you go to Danny Clark. Shawn (Barber) is missing time, but Shawn looked good. You look at those six, and chances are you're going to keep six. Those guys have kind of distinguished themselves day in and day out."
One notable omission from that list is last year's starting outside linebacker Shantee Orr. Orr has been slowed by injuries this camp, and the fifth-year pro out of Michigan will need to return quickly in order to compete for his roster spot, let alone his old job, Kubiak said.
"He got bruised, some type of bruise the first day of practice, and just continues to not be able to be out here," Kubiak said. "It's very important for him to get out here for him to make this football team."
Dunta delivers: Robinson showed again in practice Saturday why many experts around the league rank him among the best players at his position. Consistently matched up one-on-one with wide receiver Andre Johnson, the 5-11 cornerback consistently denied the 6-3 Johnson receptions by utilizing physical defense and his keen ball skills. After practice, Kubiak singled out the efforts of his top corner.
"He made a lot of plays today," Kubiak said. "That's what makes him better. In practice, you're not going to sit there and go away from a player, you're going to challenge. Everybody's got to get ready to play. Any time Andre (Johnson) is going against Dunta our football team is getting better."
Robinson said that he is unhappy with his performance from previous years, and he hopes an offseason dedication to training and preparation will pay dividends this year.
"Yeah, I mean, I just push myself harder," Robinson said. "Your first couple of years you think you're going as hard as you possibly can, but you haven't tested yourself yet. That's what I'm doing out here. Even on the plays where I'm dog tired, those are plays I can work on my technique. That's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to do whatever I can to put my team in position to win football games. I know that calls for me pushing myself to the limit."
Even if Robinson's reputation grows to the extent that teams begin throwing away from him, he knows he has a quality counterpart at cornerback in DeMarcus Faggins.
"I trust Petey," Robinson said. "I believe in him and he believes in me. When the ball goes to his side, I don't worry about it. I know he's going to make the play, and when the ball comes to my side, vice versa. I wouldn't rather have any other player on the other side of me."
Miscellaneous: Defensive lineman Travis Johnson looked solid on Saturday. At one point, Johnson got a tremendous jump on the snap and disrupted a play in the backfield, driving quarterback Sage Rosenfels to holler at his offensive line for not impeding Johnson's rush into the pocket…cornerback Dexter Wynn, who impressed earlier in camp for a series of impressive interceptions, proved that he can hit, too. Wynn laid out tight end Jeb Putzier as he was making a catch. The hit not only was hard enough to jar the ball loose, but it also kept Putzier down on the turf for a good 30 seconds. Putzier was helped off the field by trainers and later returned to practice…cornerback Jamar Fletcher and linebacker Trent Bray both had impressive interceptions on Saturday. Fletcher returned his 25 yards for a touchdown, while Bray leaped high in the air to pick off a pass thrown over the middle of the field…with no practice Saturday afternoon or all day Sunday, the team will have its first significant period of rest since camp opened July 29. Robinson said he hopes to "sleep as long as I possibly can" on his off day.