After missing the preseason opener, inside linebacker Brian Cushing played 22 snaps against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday.
Cushing, who had offseason surgery on his right knee, continued to work back toward full strength by practicing on Tuesday.
"He's doing a lot better," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "It was a slow start for him in camp. He did look good the other night in his 20 plays. He'll play a lot more this week. I think a key for Cush is just another big step forward this week – get this confidence back, I can freshen him up and then we'll be ready to go."
Cushing said that he feels quicker this year now that he's healthy. He also said that he had been playing with a bad knee since the end of his junior year at USC.
"It was one of those things where you get drafted, you've got the Senior Bowl, the Combine and one thing rolls into another and you have no time really to take care of it," he said. "Next thing you know, you're in your rookie season. I was fortunate I was able to get it taken care of."
Joseph "super" at practice
Cornerback Johnathan Joseph also practiced again on Tuesday after missing the first two preseason games with a groin injury.
"He looked good," Kubiak said. "I had him work outside full-time… He took a step forward. If he keeps going, he'll get his playing time on Saturday."
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said that he's looking forward to getting Joseph on the field.
"He's practiced great when he's practiced," Phillips said. "He practiced again today and he did super. We just want to get him game-acclimated."
Kick return plans
Since Saturday's game is essentially a dress rehearsal for the regular season, Kubiak was asked if the Texans will use free safety Danieal Manning and wide receiver Jacoby Jones as kick returners.
Jones has returned punts since his rookie season in 2007. Manning, who signed from the Chicago Bears this offseason, led the NFL with a 29.7 yards per kickoff return in 2008.
"I think you'll see Jacoby," Kubiak said. "I'm very confident in knowing what Danieal can do, and I'm more concerned with him getting our defense down right now, so that answer's probably a no. But we know he'll be ready to go. He's been successful doing it, but I want him to concentrate on what he's doing on the back end right now."
Defensive end Tim Jamison could be making a push for a roster spot. The third-year pro, who was undrafted out of Michigan, had four tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits against the Saints.
Jamison (6-3, 273) also had a tackle for loss and fumble recovery in the preseason opener against New York.
"He's very consistent," Kubiak said. "Nothing jumps at you about Timmy in particular, but all of a sudden you turn the film on, he just makes plays. He plays with a lot of effort. Very smart player, and has the ability to play on both sides. He's always done his job for us. He's always found a way to make a few plays."
Veteran defensive end Damione Lewis is likely to return to practice on Wednesday, Kubiak said. Otherwise, nothing changed about the Texans' injury situation since Monday.
Kubiak said that linebacker DeMeco Ryans (elbow) is still day-to-day. His status for the game on Saturday is unknown.
"Right now, they've been pretty even as far as playing time and what we're doing with them."
- Wade Phillips, on the competition at nose tackle between Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell