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It’s another week and another serious injury to a key player, which again is forcing the Texans to scramble to fill a void.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak confirmed Monday that safety Danieal Manning will be lost for at least six weeks and possibly longer after suffering a fibula injury during Sunday’s blowout win over Tennessee. Manning had surgery Monday afternoon in hopes of speeding up his recovery time so that he might return before the end of the season.
“We’d love to wait on Danieal, we’d love to get him back before this season is over,” Kubiak said. “We did the work today so we will see how the progression goes over the course of the next three weeks to see if that is going to be a possibility. Right now we think that it is so that’s the good news.”
But the best news Kubiak delivered Monday was that star receiver and primary playmaker Andre Johnson and fullback James Casey could both return to practice this week and will likely play in Sunday’s game against AFC South foe Jacksonville at Reliant Stadium. Johnson has missed the Texans last three games with a hamstring injury, while Casey has been sidelined the last two with a pectoral injury.
Kubiak said if all goes as planned Casey will be back at practice Wednesday while Johnson will return at some point this week.
“Both of them have a really good opportunity this week,” Kubiak said. “Andre had a really good day of work today so we are expecting him to get back on the practice field with his teammates this week.”
While the Texans await Johnson’s return, they will have to figure out how to make up for the loss of Manning on the defensive end. A free agent acquisition this summer from Chicago, Manning had been a big upgrade in the secondary while also playing a key role as a kick off returner.
Kubiak said third-year pro Troy Nolan would assume the starting free safety role, while the team will stick with rookies Shiloh Keo and Brandon Harris as the backups instead of pursuing a veteran free agent at this point. There is also the possibility the Texans will pull Torri Williams from the practice squad after signing him last week.
The move of Harris, a second-round pick out Miami, from cornerback to safety could be interesting and risky at the same time because there just isn’t any experience at safety beyond Nolan at this point. Keo was on the practice squad two weeks ago before seeing his first action against the Titans.
“Right now we really like what we’ve seen from Brandon Harris,” said Kubiak, whose 4-3 team took sole possession of the AFC South with Sunday’s win. “He’s a smart player. We think he can go play some safety. Those are the options that we have. We’re going to see how things go this week, watch those guys work and decide where we move from there.”
The position seems in good hands with Nolan, who has made plays all season long as Manning’s backup. He did well when Manning went down Sunday, playing around 30 snaps without making any mistakes.
“When he’s played he’s come up with interceptions and big plays,” Kubiak said. “The thing for Troy was getting comfortable with the mental part of the game. That was easy for him so his talents can go take over.”