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Texans coach Kubiak concerned as injuries mount

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Texans coach Kubiak concerned as injuries mount

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans won another thriller, but coach Gary Kubiak has growing concerns about the health of his team.

The Texans (10-1) rallied late to force overtime for the second straight game and beat Detroit 34-31 on Thanksgiving. Kubiak was back at Reliant Stadium early Friday morning, mulling over a sobering list of injuries to key players.

Linebackers Brooks Reed (groin) and Bradie James (hamstring), and starting right tackle Derek Newton (right knee) underwent MRI exams on Friday after getting hurt against the Lions. Tight end Garrett Graham hurt his left shoulder in the game, and Houston was already playing without starting cornerback Johnathan Joseph (hamstring), nose tackle Shaun Cody (back), linebacker Tim Dobbins (left shoulder) and backup running back Ben Tate (hamstring).

``We've got some damage this morning, no doubt about that,'' Kubiak said Friday, ``but it is a huge win.''

The Texans next play at Tennessee (4-6) on Dec. 2. Kubiak is giving his players the weekend off after a draining five days in which they played nearly 2 1/2 games.

On Sunday, Houston came back from 14 points down to beat Jacksonville 43-37 late in overtime, then rallied from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Lions after just two days of light practice. The Texans gritted out a 13-6 win in rainy Chicago the previous week.

``I'm amazed at the players and the way they held up,'' Kubiak said. ``During that short period of time, to play that much football and in that competitive environment and the way we had to win the last week together, and even if you throw Chicago in there, it's been very taxing on the team.

``I just said that I think the biggest thing is, after what we've been through physically, winning was so important.''

Kubiak says he'd know more about the latest injuries on Monday.

Newton won the starting job at right tackle in training camp and has started every game. Ryan Harris, signed just before the season began, replaced Newton Thursday.

The linebacking corps, meanwhile, is suddenly the Texans' most depleted unit. Brian Cushing was already gone for the season with a torn left knee ligament. Dobbins stepped into Cushing's spot in the starting lineup, but he hurt his left shoulder in the Chicago game.

Reed, who has 2 1/2 sacks and 15 solo tackles this season, pulled up chasing Joique Bell on Thursday, and James left in the fourth quarter after assisting on a tackle of Mikel Leshoure.

Luckily for Kubiak, Darryl Sharpton is back after missing a year with a torn right quadriceps. Sharpton saw his first action since Oct. 30, 2011 against Jacksonville and then started in Detroit. The injuries also create more opportunity for first-round pick Whitney Mercilus, who had four solo tackles and two for loss on Thursday.

``We are in a mode of survival right there at that position until we get some guys healthy,'' Kubiak said.

Aside from the injuries, Kubiak is starting to have concerns about the defense, which was ranked fourth overall and seventh against the pass coming into the Lions game.

But Houston has given up 791 yards passing and six touchdown passes in the last two games, and Kubiak says the mounting injuries are becoming a factor.

``We have not played to our standard the last two weeks defensively,'' Kubiak said. ``Obviously, if we lined up today, we're missing three of our four starting linebackers,'' Kubiak said. ``I mean, that's a concern. Then, when your top corner sits down. There are some things there to say, `OK, we can be better if we can get healthy here.' But still, we've got to look at it and say, `That's not us.'''

The Texans escaped Detroit with a win when Shayne Graham kicked a 32-yard field goal with 2:21 left in overtime. Graham is 20 for 25 this season, but he missed a 51-yarder that would've given Houston the victory earlier in the extra period. He also badly hooked a 47-yarder at the end of regulation against Jacksonville.

Kubiak is also concerned that Graham's kickoffs are coming up short.

``He's just inconsistent hitting the ball and it's something we've been working on,'' Kubiak said. ``It is a concern because field position is so huge in the game. He has kicked pretty well for us. We expect him to make that kick at the end of the game. I know it's a 50-yarder, but that's our business, that's what he's here to do.''

Graham won the job when rookie Randy Bullock tore a groin muscle in training camp. Kubiak says he still has confidence in Graham, despite the recent misses.

``He's kicked in a lot of big games. He's made a lot of big kicks,'' Kubiak said. ``The situation with our kickoffs is something we're concerned about, but we have a lot of other issues with our team right now. So it's hard to go solve that with some of the other things we've got going on.''

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New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

New pieces on offense lead to plenty of questions for Redskins at OTAs

Alex Smith in, Kirk Cousins out.

That's certainly the headline, but there are plenty of other questions for the Redskins, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

For the last two seasons, most of the questions going into OTAs for Washington came from the defensive side of the ball. After consecutive drafts with a first-round defensive lineman selection, the defense should be much improved. 

On offense, however, there are a lot of new parts. 

  1. The headliner - No position in sports is as important as NFL quarterback. This will be Alex Smith's first action in a Redskins uniform with media present. The 34-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career, and if he can continue that level of accuracy and play-making, the Redskins could be poised for an explosive year.
  2. The speedster - Washington's wideouts lacked separation in 2017. It was apparent through much of the year, and likely played a roll in some of Kirk Cousins' reluctance to make tough throws. Free agent addition Paul Richardson is supposed to help, immediately. He has elite deep speed and the 'Skins brass hopes he can bring a similar element to the offense that DeSean Jackson provided a few years back. Time to prove it Paul. 
  3. The injuries - There are big reasons for concern, namely two very large men in Jordan Reed and Trent Williams. Reed will not participate in OTAs, and has been dealing with a foot/toe injury for the better part of a year. Williams, who seems highly unlikely to attend OTAs, underwent knee surgery in January. Beyond Smith, Reed and Williams are probably the two most important offensive players on the Redskins. OTAs aren't important, Reed and Williams participating, or even attending, OTAs is not important. Both men being healthy and ready to go in September is quite important. 
  4. The Rookie - Has Derrius Guice become the most popular player on the Redskins? Maybe. The dynamic rookie running back, with an interesting draft weekend slide, has the charisma and ability to be a star. The "off-field concerns" that hurt his draft status seem like myths at this point, but there was some injury concern his junior season at LSU (see video above). Guice has an opportunity to be a huge part of the Redskins offense, and all eyes will be watching the rookie. 
  5. The leap? - In 2017, Josh Doctson showed flashes of the player that warranted a first-round pick in 2016. Will 2018 be the year he proves it, week after week, game after game? Getting off to a good start with Smith should help, and even more important would be an injury-free offseason. 

There are questions for the defense too, particularly at cornerback after Josh Norman, but this year, the offense has more new parts. 

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

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Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.