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Derek Newton is the new right tackle in Houston

Brandon Brooks, Derek Newton

Houston Texans rookie Brandon Brooks, left, takes a hit from Derek Newton (75) during an NFL football practice session Monday, May 21, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)


After the Texans surprisingly cut right tackle Eric Winston in the offseason, it was assumed that veteran Rashad Butler, acquired in 2007 on waivers from the Panthers, would get the job.

Assume again.

Coach Gary Kubiak said Monday that Derek Newton, a seventh-round pick in 2011, has won the spot at the top of the depth chart.

“Looking at the body of work, I think it was very, very close, as I told y’all all along,” Kubiak said in comments transcribed and distributed by the team. “I think the thing that has moved this toward Newton is watching his progress, watching where he was the end of last year going to the offseason, going through camp, watching him get better and better and better. Did a good job the other night. Young player that we think’s ascending. We know that there’s a lot of things he’s got to clean up, but we think he’s definitely committed to doing that, just like the way he’s progressed. So we’ll give him an opportunity to do it. Big responsibility but we think he’s ready for it.”

Kubiak credited offensive line coach John Benton for developing the team’s linemen. “He’s taken, you go back to [Mike)]Brisiel, free agent, we go get Chris [Myers], [Benton] comes in here and Chris becomes a Pro Bowl center. Wade [Smith] coming in here as a free agent. Some of the work that John has done since his stay here in Houston has been exceptional.”

“This is a big opportunity for me,” a smiling Newton said. “Coming from a small school, two years of high school [football]. Coming from a small town, not many people make it, but the grind, it was tough. I had a lot of friends [and] a lot of family support back home and they helped me get through it.”

The Texans have extra-high hopes for Newton, who appeared in 14 regular-season games as a rookie, with no starts.

“We watch him play each week and we just see things that give him a chance to be a great player, not just a good player,” Kubiak said.

The Texans had one of the best offensive lines in football last season, blowing open running lanes with a zone-blocking scheme and protecting the quarterback in a West Coast passing attack that often rolls the quarterback out. This year, 40 percent of that line is being replaced.