Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Thursday he still isn’t sure if inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans will be able to play in Saturday night’s preseason game at San Francisco.
Ryans has been nursing an injured elbow that kept him out of Saturday’s victory over New Orleans. It’s been touch and go all week with Kubiak falling on the side of caution and keeping his star linebacker out of physical contact. Ryans didn’t practice Thursday and his availability for the third preseason game is uncertain.
“Well he wouldn’t practice today on the turf. I wouldn’t turn him loose. We’ll see,” Kubiak said after practice. “We’ll wake up tomorrow, see where he’s at. Obviously he hasn’t had any work this week. That really doesn’t scare me really as much as just that we do the right thing with him.”
Kubiak wouldn’t go as far as to say Ryans doesn’t need the repetitions in a game environment Saturday night. The Texans, after all, are learning defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ new 3-4 defense and it has been an adjustment for all.
“I think every player needs to play. I don’t care who they are,” Kubiak said. “DeMeco has played a lot of football, but we have to do what’s best for him physically right now. I think he’s going to be fine, so we’ll see.”
OFFENSIVE LINE HURTING
The Texans have had their share of tweaks and aches during training camp, but no other area seems to be hurting like the offensive line right now.
Guard Kasey Studdard is out with serious ankle injury, while guards Shelley Smith and Antoine Caldwell have minor ankle injuries that have kept them sidelined and Rashad Butler suffered a hamstring injury last week.
Depth is all of sudden an issue going into Saturday’s third preseason game.
“It’s a little nerve-racking right now,” Kubiak said. “Obviously our ones have been fine. Our second group is really our third group that we started camp with. It’s been a struggle here the last couple weeks. We’ll see. It’s a big game to get through hopefully healthy and play those young guys next week, but we’re down in numbers.”
Understandably the coaching staff is frustrated with the rash of injuries to the second string offensive line. The Texans are down to basically one backup guard to man both sides.
“Yeah, just think about this; normally our second group has been Studdard, Caldwell, Butler; that’s a dang good group and all of a sudden it’s all young guys,” Kubiak said. “When you get beat up in camp, those are types of things that happen and I think it really showed up especially in the second half last week offensively. We didn’t play very well in my opinion.
“It’s an opportunity for those young guys and a couple of them may end up making this team, so we’ll see.”
T.J. Yates Progressing
The thought coming into camp was that rookie quarterback T.J. Yates might be able to push Matt Leinart for the backup job behind Matt Schaub, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way yet.
Yates, the Texans fifth round pick out of North Carolina, is still becoming familiar with the offense. Each day gets better but admittedly he still has a ways to go and that has been obvious at times in training camp.
“I wouldn’t say I’m completely comfortable, but I’ve been doing my best to get the playbook down,” Yates said. “I think I’ve got the mental aspect of it. It’s just that being a third-string guy, you don’t get as many reps as you would like to get physically comfortable. I think I’m mentally comfortable with the playbook and everything, but as far as going through my footwork and in live situations, that’s the one thing that’s hard for somebody in my situation to get down. That’s why we stay after practice and try to work it as much as possible.”
Kubiak believes the lockout hindered players like Yates, who didn’t get to go through OTAs and offseason workouts. He has been getting on-the-job training since reporting for training camp, which has to be overwhelming for a first-year quarterback in the NFL.
“He’s got the ability, he’s got the arm, he’s got the brain,” Kubiak said. “(He’s got) all those things, just needs reps and the closer we get, he gets less, so that’s the thing that makes it hard.”