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Kubiak on expectations: 'We want to be great'

The Sports Xchange
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The Texans have answered a lot of questions as they prepare for their regular-season opener against Miami at Reliant Stadium.

The Texans are a bona fide Super Bowl contender coming off its first playoff season. Most experts believe the only thing that can keep the Texans from winning the AFC South and making a serious run at the Super Bowl would be catastrophic injuries.

"We're trying to get our team as good as we can get it," coach Gary Kubiak said. "I appreciate the fact that people are saying a lot of good things about us. I said earlier (in camp) that I think we're going to have a good team.

"But we want to be great, but we've got some work to do. We've got some new faces that have to step up. We just need to stay focused on us. We can't stay focused on what's going to happen in January."

The health of quarterback Matt Schaub is a non-issue. He had the best preseason in his six seasons with the Texans. He showed no signs of the surgery he had to repair the Lisfranc joint in his right foot.

Schaub, who was 7-3 as a starter last season before suffering the injury, played in the first three preseason games and improved each week. He completed 76.3 percent of his passes and compiled a rating of 113.3.

"Matt was rusty when camp opened, but he had a really good camp overall," Kubiak said. "He's come a long way (since the surgery). I think he's grown into being a better player."

This is Schaub's sixth season in Kubiak's offense. His favorite target, Andre Johnson, has been brittle but will be 100 percent for the Dolphins. How long he stays 100 percent remains to be seen.

The Texans have made two changes in their offensive lineup. Antoine Caldwell is the new starter at right guard. Derek Newton, playing in his second season, beat out Rashad Butler at right tackle. The coaches are taking a chance going with Newton over the more experienced Butler, but they believe Newton, a seventh-round pick last year, has more upside.

No matter who's blocking on the right side, the Texans should again have one of the league's most dominant running games with Arian Foster and Ben Tate. They ranked second in rushing and first in average time of possession.

"I think we can be one of the top offenses in the league, barring injury," Foster said. "We have depth at running back. We've got wide receivers, including Andre, the best at what he does.

"Matt can compete with elite quarterbacks in this league. I think we have some young receivers (Lestar Jean and Keshawn Martin) that are ready to step up and be big-time players."

The Texans have one new starter, inside linebacker Bradie James, on the NFL's second-ranked defense.

They expect to be healthy on defense despite camp injuries to defensive end J.J. Watt (dislocated elbow), nose tackle Shaun Cody (back) and inside linebacker Brian Cushing (ribs).

Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, will come off the bench and be part of the rotation on the weak side. He's the team's first No. 1 pick who won't start as a rookie. With Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed at outside linebacker, there's no need for Mercilus to start

The special teams have been rebuilt. Veteran kicker Shayne Graham, 34, did a terrific job and was named the kicker when rookie Randy Bullock was placed on injured reserve with a torn groin muscle.

Trindon Holliday, a three-year veteran, has been outstanding on kickoff and punt returns, but he still has fumbled enough to keep his job in jeopardy. Donnie Jones, signed as a free agent from St. Louis, is the new punter.

COACHING
Gary Kubiak, 7th year with Texans (48-50).

REMEMBERING
2011 record: 10-6 (first in AFC South); lost in divisional round of the playoffs to Baltimore 20-13.

PREDICTING
2012 regular season record 11-5 (first in AFC South), lose in AFC title game.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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