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Texans banking on youth to contribute more

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- One of the main reasons teams have organized team activities is so coaches can watch young players. Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak has been keeping a close eye on a lot of young players, including those expected to contribute in their second seasons.

"There's quite a few," Kubiak said. "I'm not just talking about rookies. I'm talking about (second-year) guys like (right guard) Brandon Brooks, (outside linebacker) Whitney Mercilus, (receiver) Keshawn Martin and (receiver) Lestar Jean."

The coaches are hoping Brooks has solidified right guard.

"He's got to line up every day and earn it," Kubiak said. "At the end of last year, I think he was playing. He's earned the opportunity to be that guy, so we'll see if he can hang on.

"The best thing you can have happen is that you don't really notice him. And that's kind of what's happened. He understands what we're doing now. He's got the tools of a big-time player. It's up to him. He's come a long way. I think he's very comfortable in his own skin right now and feeling good about himself."

Like Brooks, Mercilus earned a starting job as the right outside linebacker. He was the first-round pick last year. Coming off the bench, he recorded six sacks. Starters Connor Barwin (3.5) and Brooks Reed (3.0) had one-half fewer than Mercilus.

Playing the weak side in Wade Phillips' defense, Mercilus will rush the passer on 95 percent of the pass plays.

"He's young, but he's much improved in everything he's done," Kubiak said. "He's had a good offseason. He's been good in the OTAs. Now he needs to continue his progress in camp."

Some other young players Kubiak mentioned were cornerback Brandon Harris, safety Eddie Pleasant, outside linebacker Sam Montgomery and outside linebacker Trevardo Williams.

Harris is trying to win a job as the fourth cornerback. Pleasant is trying to make the team as a strong safety who excels on special teams. Montgomery and Williams are draft choices competing on the strong side.

"You see the ability," Kubiak said about Montgomery and Williams. "They bring a lot of pass rush experience from college. The key is, can we get them in the right place and do the right things with them? The OTAs have been very, very important to those guys. How far they come will be crucial to our success."
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