Newton lands right tackle spot for Houston Texans

Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Monday that Derek Newton

has beaten Rashad Butler for the starting job at right tackle.

The 6-foot-6, 318-pound Newton was a seventh-round draft pick

out of Arkansas State in 2011. Butler, entering his sixth season

with Houston, was sidelined much of last season with a left triceps

injury. Kubiak met with both players on Monday before announcing

his decision.

”Looking at the body of work, it was very, very close,” Kubiak

said. ”The thing that moved us toward Newton is watching his

progress, watching where he was in the last year, going through the

offseason, going through camp – a young player we think is

ascending.”

The Texans (No. 4 in the AP Pro32) wrap up the preseason against

Minnesota (No. 29) on Thursday night. Kubiak is still mulling

whether to play backup quarterback T.J. Yates, who’s struggled in

the last two exhibition games. Kubiak will also take a close look

at veteran quarterback John Beck and rookie Case Keenum, who are

competing for the No. 3 spot.

Nose tackle Shaun Cody (back) and defensive end J.J. Watt

(dislocated left elbow) returned to practice on Monday, Kubiak

said. Linebacker Brian Cushing (bruised ribs) and center Chris

Myers (illness) went through individual workouts. Kubiak said star

receiver Andre Johnson sat out after coming out of Saturday’s 34-27

loss in New Orleans ”pretty sore,” but ”he’s fine.”

The team also announced that running back Davin Meggett, veteran

receiver Bryant Johnson and offensive tackle Nick Mondek were among

the players waived as the Texans reduced their roster to the

required 75 players.

Center Thomas Austin, linebacker Omar Gaither, punter Brett

Hartmann, receiver Mario Louis, defensive end Jimmy

Saddler-McQueen, fullback Derrell Smith, guard Kasey Studdard and

cornerback Torri Williams were waived.

Meggett, the son of former NFL player Dave Meggett, signed with

Houston as an undrafted free agent in May. Johnson, a 9-year NFL

veteran, made six catches for 90 yards, including a touchdown, for

the Texans last season. Mondek was a sixth-round draft pick out of

Purdue.

All teams must trim their rosters to 53 players on Friday.

The competition at right tackle has been one of the most closely

watched position battles in Texans camp. The team cut Eric Winston

in March, a surprising move after Winston started 88 consecutive

games at the position.

Kubiak said Newton showed major improvement late last

season.

”He’s come a long way from Arkansas State,” Kubiak said. ”We

just see things that give him a chance to be a great player. We’ve

got to get him consistent, and those types of things, but if that

was the case, he’d have already been there. There just comes a

point where you say, `Hey, we’re going to work him through this

stuff and he’s the best guy for us.’ I really like his commitment

to what we’re doing.”

Newton played in 14 games last season and felt like he had a

good handle on the Texans’ complex playbook by the spring. He was

worried about making mistakes in training camp, but got

reassurances from teammates.

”Being able to come out every day and try to make each play

good, it’s hard,” Newton said. ”I had a lot of guys come up to me

and tell me, `Just take it one play at a time, be calm and you’ll

be all right.”’

Kubiak revealed on Sunday that rookie kicker Randy Bullock would

miss the season with a torn muscle near his groin, solving another

of the tight position duels in training camp. That leaves the job

to 34-year-old Shayne Graham, who’s 5-for-5 on field goals in the

preseason, including a 53-yarder.

”Shayne’s had a heck of a camp,” Kubiak said. ”To sit here

and say Shayne might’ve won the job anyway, I don’t know. We had

another week to go, but they were both kicking extremely well. But

I’ve got a lot of confidence in him, he’s earned his keep around

here.”

Also Monday, the Texans placed linebacker Darryl Sharpton on the

Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list with a right quadriceps

injury. The team also announced that nose tackle Ra’Shon Harris

(right triceps) and linebacker Greg Williams (hamstring) were

waived/injured.