Kubiak hopeful to have Walter, Ward back

The Texans’ opening 34-7 win over Indianapolis is only one game,
but it’s hard not to see it as something more.

The Colts looked lost with the 38-year-old Collins filling in
for Peyton Manning, who’s out indefinitely with a neck injury. And
Houston’s defense dominated in its first game using new coordinator
Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme.

On offense, Matt Schaub completed 17 of 24 passes, Andre Johnson
made seven catches and Ben Tate proved a capable replacement for
Arian Foster, who sat out with a left hamstring injury. Jacoby
Jones also returned a punt for a touchdown and if not for three
turnovers, coach Gary Kubiak would’ve found little to

”I don’t like the way we turned the ball over in the fourth
quarter,” he said after the game. ”But it was a great group
effort. We had explosion from every facet of the team, and that’s
what you’re looking for.”

The good news kept coming Monday.

An MRI exam showed that receiver Kevin Walter’s right collarbone
was bruised, not broken, and Derrick Ward’s sprained right ankle is
not considered serious. Walter’s injury will be re-evaluated later
in the week, but Kubiak hopes both players will be ready for
Sunday’s game in Miami.

Kubiak said Foster, the NFL’s leading rusher in 2010, worked out
his hamstring on Monday and will test it again Tuesday. The Texans
return to practice Wednesday, and Kubiak is hopeful Foster will

If Walter can’t play, Jones becomes the No. 2 receiver behind
Johnson. Jones, starting his fifth season with Houston, had three
catches for 43 yards, in addition to his 79-yard touchdown return
in the opener.

”He’s been better in this camp than he’s been in any previous
year,” Kubiak said. ”I’m hoping that equates in him playing as
good as he’s played as a pro. It was good step forward for

If Foster and Ward are both still sidelined, Kubiak now knows he
can turn to Tate. The 2010 second-round draft pick, who sat out
last year with a broken ankle, rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown
on 24 carries. Tate strained a hamstring early in training camp,
and Kubiak was concerned that the former Auburn star wasn’t getting
enough snaps.

”Really his first time out, and he goes out there and runs for
100-plus yards,” Kubiak said. ”He did a good job in pass
protection, too, so I was encouraged by that.”

Kubiak’s only complaint about the offense on Sunday was that it
eased up after building a 34-0 halftime lead. Houston slipped into
a habit of slow starts last season, but did the reverse in the
opener, producing only 125 yards and seven first downs and giving
away two of its turnovers after halftime.

”You’ve got to play the game,” Kubiak said. ”I don’t want to
sit there and draw on a shell because we had the lead. I want it to
be aggressive and keep playing. You can’t turn the ball over like

”We really hurt our defense when we turned it over back on our
own end, so that concerns me,” he said, ”but I know it hurt the
guys that did it and that’s what’s most important. It’d be easy if
you win a game the way we did for guys to say that didn’t matter.
But I don’t have guys like that.”

The defense, meanwhile, didn’t let up until the fourth quarter,
when Collins threw a touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne to avoid the

Mario Williams silenced skepticism about his move from defensive
end to outside linebacker, producing two sacks and forcing a
fumble. Rookie defensive end J.J. Watt made five solo tackles and
recovered a fumble, linebacker Brian Cushing led Houston with a
seven tackles, and linebacker DeMeco Ryans had six tackles in his
first game since tearing his left Achilles tendon in Week 6 last

Ryans also missed several practices in training camp with a
bruised left elbow, and Kubiak thinks he’s still catching up with
the rest of the defense.

”It was kind of like DeMeco’s third preseason game, the one you
want to play the most plays in, for all your starters,” Kubiak
said. ”DeMeco comes out with a step forward. There’s a lot of
great football ahead for DeMeco. It was a step in the right