On the injury front, linebacker Brian Cushing returned to practice Thursday after missing the previous three days with a sore knee. Cushing called it “as minor as they come; a bruise at most,” and Kubiak said it was important to Cushing to be back on the field before the end of OTAs. Wide receiver Trindon Holliday also practiced Thursday after injuring his ankle last week.
Quarterback Matt Schaub (foot), wide receiver Andre Johnson (knee) and linebacker Darryl Sharpton (quad) did not participate in OTAs as they rehabbed from injuries. Rookie nose tackle Hebron Fangupo missed all but part of the first day after injuring his knee.
“I feel good about Matt and where he’s at,” Kubiak said. “I think he could be practicing right now. Andre is probably a little further behind Matt right now. Loni (Fangupo) will be back. Probably the biggest question mark right now is Sharpton. Looking at where we’re at, Sharpton could not come out and practice right now. He needs to be in there battling with Bradie (James) for a starting job. Probably that’s my biggest concern right now, seeing that he’s 100 percent and can go out there and compete for a job.”
Kubiak said his biggest concern coming out of OTAs is the Texans’ young wide receivers. Aside from 10-year veterans Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, none of the Texans’ receivers have caught an NFL pass.
“I like the ability, as I’ve told y’all all along,” Kubiak said. “Bottom line, none of them have been in games, and so that’s going to be a concern until we get going. The picture looks different when Andre is out here and Kevin is out here and you have those veterans leading the way. Throughout the course of these OTAs, it’s strictly young guys. That’s a concern. It’s something we’ll continue to address with our team as we move forward.”
Kubiak wouldn’t say Thursday that Lestar Jean, who worked as a starter during OTAs with Johnson sidelined, has established himself as the team’s number three receiver. He doesn’t know if the team will keep six wideouts on the 53-man roster, saying, “it depends on what we are come September.”
The Texans also have questions at fullback, where second-year pro Derrell Smith has worked behind James Casey after spending last season on the practice squad at middle linebacker. Kubiak said Thursday that Smith has “very good” hands.
“I feel good about him,” Kubiak said. “He’s behind mentally. He’s a defensive player trying to play offense, so that’s tough, but nobody is working harder. I think the future is very bright, but it just needs to happen quick. He’s behind, but that’s not his fault. That’s us changing his position.”
The Texans will have a kicker competition through training camp between rookie Randy Bullock, who was perfect in his first competition in front of the team and has consistently boomed kickoffs 6-7 yards deep in practice, and veteran Shayne Graham, who signed with the Texans in May.
The Texans are also looking for a kick returner to replace Jacoby Jones. Safety Danieal Manning suggested Thursday that he won’t return kicks in 2012. Wide receivers Keshawn Martin, a rookie fourth-round draft pick from Michigan State, and DHolliday, a third-year pro out of LSU, appear to be the frontrunners for the job.
“That’s one thing you can’t really tell until you start playing, but I thought Keshawn looked like a natural with what he was doing,” Kubiak said. “Trindon is the best he’s been as a player going into this camp as a pro. It’ll be competitive, and then the young man that we picked up (running back Justin Forsett) looks like he’s going to be able to help us there, too. We’ll see how it comes out.”
The Texans have three open spots on their roster, meaning there’s room for them to sign free agents at positions such as wide receiver and tight end between now and the start of training camp in late July.
“I’m concerned about the youth of the receiving group, which we keep talking about,” Kubiak said. “We’ve normally had a physical tight end around here to go with O.D. (Owen Daniels). We don’t have that presence right now. That’s something (general manager) Rick (Smith) and I are looking at.
“You just asked me a question about our fullback. I know what James can do, but I’m counting heavily on a young man (Smith) who hasn’t played there. Those are some of the things right now and just the new faces that are going to be the new leaders along with the leaders we have to go with this team. Like I said, it’s a totally different team. It’s going to start taking on an identity as we get going here.”
Tags: Andre Johnson, Bradie James, Brian Cushing, Danieal Manning, Darryl Sharpton, Derrell Smith, Gary Kubiak, Hebron Fangupo, James Casey, Justin Forsett, Keshawn Martin, Matt Schaub, Organized Team Activities, Owen Daniels, Randy Bullock, Rick Smith, Shayne Graham, Trindon Holliday
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