Really nice read. http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/5856728 Nine Nuggets: Texans feeling optimistic 1. Overview Inside the Texans' practice bubble on a stormy and muggy Monday afternoon, new head coach Gary Kubiak smiled when I asked him one final question during a 20-minute interview. We wanted to know what would be the criteria in defining 2006 as a success. Kubiak has the mantra down when he said, "We need to act like winners. We need to think like winners. We need to practice like winners. We need to carry ourselves like winners. We need to play like winners. And that will equal a success." And at the state of the art practice facilities in the shadows of the sparkling Reliant Stadium, it is very evident that the ground work is being laid for just that. The 2005 Texans were a flat-out disaster, an underachieving and injury-riddled outfit that eventually led to the jettisoning of coach Dom Capers and his staff. Enter Kubiak. The Houston native is thrilled to be home for his first head coaching gig. And you can tell there is a new sheriff in town. The practices are spirited. The culture has changed. There is optimism abound. And Eric Moulds is talking about the playoffs. Now while that is a stretch, there is no doubt that Houston is going to be vastly improved. Nobody on the planet thought this was a two-win team going into the 2005 season. This team has talent. Kubiak has to maximize David Carr. The quarterback, who was on his back more than anyone else in the league, needs help from the offensive line. Mario Williams was the surprise No. 1 overall pick in the draft and, fair or not, needs to produce right away. The defensive players to a man need to start living up to where they were drafted and what they are getting paid. I believe in Kubiak. I really believe in owner Bob McNair and his supremely classy organization that makes sure everything, from the weight room to the hot lunches, are among the best in the league. McNair really picked a winner when he plucked Rick Smith out of the Broncos organization to be his new general manager. I think the Texans are a team that wins about seven games this year, builds a foundation for the future, and beats a potential playoff-bound team or two in a key game in the process. 2. Offensive Nuggets Dominick Davis has fluid in his knee and isn't practicing. Kubiak couldn't commit to a time table for his return, when he might play in the preseason, or if he would be available on opening day. This injury stems from the end of last season and the recovery from surgery is taking much longer than anyone expected. Part of my argument in taking Bush when Houston had the chance is that you simply cannot bank on Davis staying healthy. Now with that said, Kubiak feels great about the depth at running back. Antoine Smith, a former University of Houston standout, is back home and ready to pound the rock. Rookie Wali Lundy (more on him later) has impressed with his pure speed and cutting ability. Second-year back Vernand Morency will get reps early in this weekend's preseason opener against Kansas City. Eric Moulds and Andre Johnson are attached at the hip whenever the first team is taking a break. That's one of the many reasons Moulds was brought into Houston in a trade from Buffalo. In talking to the veteran at length on Monday, it's clear he fully embraces his role as mentor and receiver. Moulds talks with Johnson constantly, with conversations extending beyond the practice field and the team environment. What really impresses Moulds is how receptive the supremely talented Johnson is to the wisdom. Having Moulds on the opposite side of the field is going to force defensive backs to stop rolling coverage towards Johnson. After suffering through nagging injuries a year ago, Johnson told us he is 100 percent healthy and energized by the arrival of Moulds. I think Johnson plays like he did in 2004, and likely even better. A Pro-Bowl season with minimum numbers of 80 catches and 1000 receiving yards is in the cards. While Moulds is certainly in Houston to lead and take pressure off of Johnson, Moulds can still bring it as a player. Carr waxed poetic about the receiver's hands, and he should, after Moulds bailed him out on a roll out early Monday morning. Carr threw on the run and the receiver jumped up to corral a high throw for a 15-yard gain. Moulds was very frustrated with how things ended in Buffalo last year and is primed for a solid 2006. Kevin Walter is going to be the No. 3 receiver. He's a possession wide out with fly-paper hands. Walter had a brilliant morning session with a bevy of catches in traffic. When you think of Kubiak football in Denver, you think about success at the tight end position. And Houston has some intriguing options here. Jeb Putzier comes over from Denver and will likely get the bulk of the playing time. He's just a solid all-around player. Marc Bruener is still a strong blocker. And stop the presses we have a Bennie Joppru sighting! The former second-round pick hasn't been able to get himself on the field during his NFL career, but he made some nice catches in the morning practice. Carr called Joppru a diligent worker. This passing attack has a real shot to be very good. But it simply won't happen if play isn't improved in the trenches. Last year, the Texans were a turnstile and a punch-line up front. Kubiak made a brilliant hire when he tabbed Mike Sherman as his assistant head coach and offensive line guru. Say what you want about Sherman as a head coach, and I have, but he is a very good assistant who was drilling the offensive lineman on Monday morning. Mike Flanagan was the signature offensive lineman pickup. The former Green Bay center, in Carr's words, "is a tough guy, fun guy to play with, comes with big-game experience, and isn't afraid to let you know when you did something wrong.' 3. Defensive Nuggets Robaire Smith is chomping at the bit for the 2006 season to start. The defensive tackle told us after practice on Monday, "I cannot wait for the season to start. Mario Williams is the real deal. Williams is a combination of Kevin Carter and Javon Kearse. He is a going to be a big-time player. He is going to make an immediate impact. Mario is a big man and boy he is quick. And as a defensive tackle, man, he is going to really help me out with his speed on the outside. People don't realize that we are going to be much better in the 4-3 defense. We are a 4-3 team. (Jason) Babin is in his natural spot. And I'm telling you guys, Anthony Weaver is a player. We stole him this off-season. He's a perfect fit at tackle and can pressure a quarterback. It's easy to forget we have playmakers in the defensive backfield. Trust me, it's a new attitude, new system, and new team." Let's piggyback off those comments Everyone in Houston thinks Williams is the real deal. Look, I absolutely thought the Texans should've picked Reggie Bush. But it is easy to see the instant impact the rookie is going to make. In talking to Williams for a long time after the morning practice, he is focused. And he swears he feels no extra burden being the No. 1 overall pick, living up to the hype, and being that player whom the Texans opted for over Bush. Williams also swears he won't follow Bush's chronicles this season or throughout the course of this year. This defensive line should consistently harass the opponents quarterback. The buzz around the Weaver pickup is enormous. Rick Smith and Kubiak each gushed about what Weaver brings to the defensive line, as a player and person, without us even asking a direct question about the former Raven. But there are a lot of players who need to improve. We spent quality time with second-year defensive lineman Travis Johnson. Chalk up another player thrilled that Houston is shifting to the 4-3 defense. The 2005 first-round pick suffered a rough go of it (and that's being kind) during his neophyte campaign playing tackle in the middle of the Texans 3-4 defense last season. Babin, now back on the defensive line, needs to prove he was worth the bushel of picks the old regime gave up to get him. Phillip Buchanon simply had a dreadful first year in Houston. He couldn't tackle anyone, got hurt, and eventually was benched. Buchanon told us just how miserable last year was, as the loquacious cornerback had his swagger and confidence zapped. "Showtime" never got started a year ago. As Duanta Robinson said, "We need 'Showtime' Buchanon in Houston. We need him to be a starter." Robinson and Jonathan Vilma were the best defensive rookies in the NFL in 2004. But Robinson suffered a sophomore slump in 2005. Opposing quarterbacks rarely threw to his side of the field. It's why he absolutely needs Buchanon to play well. Morlon Greenwood, like Buchanon, had a horrendous 2005 after receiving a boat load of cash as a free agent. He needs to pick up his play. On the other hand, safety CC Brown was a bright spot last year for Dom Capers' defense and had good practice sessions on Monday. 4. Quarterback Focus Carr was nice enough to give us a long sit-down interview in the bubble following the afternoon practice. And this was on a day when Kubiak was all over him in the morning session, wanting the quarterback to focus more and be more of a leader. Carr loves it. Kubiak doesn't treat Carr with kid gloves. The new coach doesn't treat Carr like the prodigal son. The quarterback says he thrives on taking sage advice from someone who has played this demanding position in the NFL and has tutored quarterbacks for a living. Frankly, as Carr says, it is something he has craved his entire career. Carr knows the appointment of Kubiak is the best thing that's happened to him since the Texans drafted him. In talking to Carr off, and on the air, he sounds thrilled and relaxed. 2005 was a horrible season for him and the Texans. The whispers about his play were so loud that they sparked a roar when so often murmured in unison. Carr has heard the criticism and the questions. And it doesn't matter. He looks at what Kubiak did for Jake Plummer. Carr dreams about game day when Johnson draws single coverage with Moulds on the opposite side. And he finally believes in his offensive line and loves working with Flanagan. I really think this is the year Carr lives up to the hype. For his future in Houston, it better be. 5. Rookie Watch (besides Williams) DeMeco Ryans is opening up eyes. The Alabama product has a great chance to start in Week 1 at middle linebacker. Players and coaches rave about his leadership and ability to make plays. Ryans doesn't possess great speed but his instincts are simply something you cannot teach. With Davis still sidelined, Wali Lundy took the bulk of the reps with the first team at running back. Monday's radio co-host, Gil Brandt, thinks Lundy is the next Brian Mitchell. Look for Lundy, the sixth-round pick from UVA, to get a lot of work in the preseason opener versus Kansas City this weekend. Charles Spencer and Eric Winston were steals for this organization in the third round and both are practicing very well at camp. The coaches are very impressed with the camp tight end Owen Daniels is having. Kubiak made sure to mention him when we chatted. 6. Camp Buzz Tempo. Every player, on and off the record, is talking about the increased tempo and cadence of practice under the direction of Kubiak. The practices are much more intense, more crisp, and the players feel a lot more is getting done. They also rave about the aggressive, in-your-face style that this coaching staff preaches, and how they aren't afraid to chew out a prominent player, especially Carr, who seems to thrive on the coaching. Kubiak is very pleased with how the camp is going. 7. He Said It Jeb Putzier on advice he gives family members, "I keep telling my family to stop picking me in fantasy football. I'll have a game where I score a touchdown and every friend and family member is rushing to the waiver wire, and then they get mad when I don't do it again. It can't be good for your fantasy team if I'm in the starting lineup!" 8. Can't Make it Up When Travis Johnson came over to our set up in the end zone he tells me, "Damn, Adam, you are so loud we can hear you on the practice field. They can hear you in Dallas!"