It was new territory for Xavier Su’a-filo.
But in the first practice after his Houston Texans preseason loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night, there Su’a-filo was at right guard, running with the first-team offense for the first time.
“I think Xavier has a lot of potential,” said All Pro left tackle Duane Brown. “He has a lot of athletic ability. I really like his demeanor when he plays.
“It’s just kind of fast right now [for him]. It is for most rookies. He just has a lot to learn, same way I was when I got here, same way any O-lineman that comes into the league is.
“But he’s been working hard.”
Su’a-filo, selected at No. 33 overall in April, was taken with high hopes after having started every game in his collegiate career at UCLA at either left tackle or left guard. But he fell behind after missing offseason workouts thanks to UCLA’s trimester schedule and NFL rules that forced him to sit out of OTAs.
Things Su’a-filo has seemed to have overcome.
“I believe that he’s improved,” head coach Bill O’Brien said.
“I think it’s hard for a rookie to come in on the interior of the offensive line and get used to that right away. Everybody’s stronger, everybody’s quicker.
“But there’s a guy there that has improved. He’s played tackle, he’s played guard and he’s done some quarterback-center exchange in pre-practice, so he’s a guy that’s doing a lot and he’s getting better every day.”
Part of Su’a-filo’s promotion figures to be guard Alex Kupper’s disappointing performance on Saturday night with the 1s. Kupper was beat with speed and/or power throughout the contest, and was penalized twice. All of which did little to help quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and a sputtering offense. Kupper ran with the second team offensive line on Monday, along with three undrafted rookies and free agent pickup Tyson Clabo.
Whenever guard Brandon Brooks returns from the non-football injury list, that would presumably leave one guard spot for Su’a-filo and Ben Jones, who started at left guard on Saturday night.
With the Atlanta Falcons due up on Saturday night at NRG Stadium and two joint practices this week, Su’a-filo should have ample opportunities to cement the position he appears to have taken.
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