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

criticize.

”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

participate.

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

him.”

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

that.

”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

shutout.

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

year.

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

direction.”