Opportunity aplenty for Texans' guards

Opportunity aplenty for Texans' guards
July 30, 2014, 7:30 am
Share This Post
(USA Today Images)

Offensive guard Alex Kupper spent most of his rookie season on the Texans’ practice squad. But the former undrafted rookie has found himself working with the first-team offense early in this training camp.

And he’s trying to make the most of it.

“It’s a process that people like myself need to take full advantage of and it’s a physical league and you have to hold up day in and day out,” he said after Tuesday morning’s practice. “It’s a challenge but it’s a challenge I’m willing to meet.”

Kupper, who played center at Louisville, is getting those first team reps at right guard, where Brandon Brooks played last season. Brooks opened training camp on the Non-football Injury list and hasn’t yet been removed, even though head coach Bill O’Brien said “he’s closer.” Brooks can’t practice until he’s off that list.

Without Brooks, the Texans turned to third-year player Cody White. But on the second day of training camp, White tore his Achilles and was lost for the season.

So it’s been Kupper and third-year player Ben Jones manning the guard positions, with rookie second-round pick Xavier Su’a-Filo right behind them.

“I think those guys are smart, they’re hardworking guys, they’re tough,” head coach Bill O’Brien said. “They seem to come out every day with the attitude that they’re going to get better and it’s a competitive position.”

Su’a-Filo was the 33rd overall pick in this spring’s draft. UCLA’s quarters system force him to miss all of the Texans’ OTAs but that hasn’t stopped him in training camp from showing off why many draft experts pegged him as a first-round pick.

“He’s a real smart guy,” longtime center Chris Myers said of Su’a-Filo. “There are some guys that can retain it real well. There are some guys that have an issue with it and have to do it on the field a lot. He’s a real smart guy and he’s taking it in stride.”

Su’a-Filo is listed at 6-4, 307 pounds and has a strong lower body. In the two days of padded practices, Su’a-Filo has more than held his own against his defensive teammates.

“You see why he is that high of a pick by how athletic and how big he is,” Kupper said. “It’s just honing in on some fundamentals we’re working on and just trying to be a better player.”

Jones started 10 games at right guard as a rookie, while splitting time with Brooks. Brooks took over the job last season and started 15 games. But with the departure of veteran Wade Smith, who remains a free agent, the left guard spot became vacant. Jones was expected to battle Su’a-Filo for that starting spot.

Jones is a natural center but has played only guard since entering the league as Myers continues to play the center position at a high level.

“I think Ben Jones has had a very, very good offseason,” O’Brien said. “He’s been a guy that has been in this building since day one. He’s been in the weight room since we got here. He’s a really, really good team guy. We enjoy coaching him. I can see his improvement from day-to-day, from minicamp to where we are now in training camp. When you work that hard, you’re going to improve.”

Aside from losing White and not yet having Brooks, the team also lost second-year guard David Quessenberry to a cancer diagnosis.

Certainly, Kupper doesn’t enjoy seeing his teammates sick or injured but there’s unmistakable opportunity with the team at guard now. And Kupper thinks he’s a much better player with one year of NFL experience.

So what does he think of his chances to make the team?

“As good as anybody else’s,” Kupper said. “It’s up to myself, honestly. I just have to show that I can play day in and day out.”

Texans - Team News
Alfred Blue - RB
Alfred Blue (ankle) remained limited in Thursday's practice. Arian Foster's caddie is in no danger of missing Week 9.
Oct 30 3:41PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) returned to Texans practice Thursday, getting in a limited session. Johnson was never in any danger of missing Sunday's game against the Eagles. With six teams on bye for Week 9, Johnson is a WR1.
Oct 30 3:40PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster (knee) returned to Texans practice Thursday, getting in a limited session. The Texans are just managing their superstar back's reps. With DeMarco Murray facing the Cardinals' elite run defense, there's a case to be made for Foster as Week 9's No. 1...
Oct 30 3:39PM Read More
Alfred Blue - RB
Alfred Blue (ankle) was limited in Wednesday's practice. Blue got first-team reps with Arian Foster (knee) not practicing. The Texans also held out Andre Johnson (ankle) on Wednesday.
Oct 29 5:15PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. The Texans are limiting Johnson's reps for rest purposes. He didn't suffer any setbacks last week and should be fine for Sunday's game against the Eagles.
Oct 29 3:43PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster (knee) did not practice Wednesday. It's a new injury for Foster. Coming off his three-touchdown performance, it's possible the Texans are getting him some rest. Foster will be a top-three running back in Week...
Oct 29 3:18PM Read More
Zac Diles - LB
Texans signed LB Zac Diles. CB Elbert Mack was waived in a corresponding roster move. Diles' addition is a sign the Texans aren't expecting Brian Cushing (knee) back for Week 9.
Oct 28 4:04PM Read More
Garrett Graham - TE
Garrett Graham was held without a catch in the Texans' Week 8 win over Tennessee. Graham was targeted just one time on the day, a seam shot from Ryan Fitzpatrick that predictably fell incomplete. Graham has been a very minor part of the offense, making...
Oct 26 4:53PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson caught seven passes for 55 yards in the Texans' Week 8 win over the Titans. Johnson saw a team-high dozen targets. He was followed by Titans top CB Jason McCourty for much of the afternoon, leaving DeAndre Hopkins to work on sophomore Blidi...
Oct 26 4:44PM Read More
DeAndre Hopkins - WR
DeAndre Hopkins caught five passes for 95 yards in the Texans' Week 8 win over the Titans. Hopkins was targeted 11 times compared to 12 for Andre Johnson. Hopkins picked up chunk yards on all of his grabs, and was stopped at the five-yard line on one grab where...
Oct 26 4:24PM Read More
Alfred Blue - RB
Alfred Blue rushed for 42 yards on 14 carries in the Texans' Week 8 win over the Titans. Blue added a 22-yard catch. With the Texans clobbering the Titans late and Arian Foster having already piled up 173 yards and three touchdowns, Blue got plenty of run late...
Oct 26 4:11PM Read More
Ryan Fitzpatrick - QB
Ryan Fitzpatrick completed just 19-of-35 passes for 227 yards, one touchdown, and zero... Fitzpatrick was pretty bad for most of the day, begging to be picked off, but the Texans rode Arian Foster's legs to victory. Fitzpatrick's lone touchdown went to Foster on...
Oct 26 3:45PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in the Texans' 30-16, Week 8... Foster managed just 36 yards on his first 10 carries, but broke a 34-yard touchdown and had no trouble finding holes in the Tennessee defense from there on. Foster caught a...
Oct 26 3:21PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Jadeveon Clowney (knee) is active for Week 8 against the Titans. Clowney will play on a "pitch count," likely in pass-rushing and third-down situations. Good luck with Clowney and J.J. Watt, Zach Mettenberger. Inactive for the...
Oct 26 10:34AM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) is likely to play against the Titans, but will be on a... "I thought what he did what he had to do this week," coach Bill O’Brien said. "I think he’s got a good shot to play on Sunday." Clowney has been...
Oct 25 9:13AM Read More

More Team Talk