Duane Brown (Getty Images)
Player notes, battles, rookies, and injury reports for the Houston Texans
--LB Kevin Bentley is now working at middle linebacker so that he can back up DeMeco Ryans if necessary.
--RB Mike Bell was signed to a contract last week. He is to fill in for Chris Brown, who has missed practice with back spasms. He knows the system well, but he has struggled to keep up with the rest of the team since he is out of shape.
--DT Frank Okam is the biggest player on the team at 336 pounds, but the coaches are not looking for him to lose any more weight.
--G Mike Brisiel is working at center as well as right guard in case he would ever need to play center in the midst of a game -- depending on who the Texans suit up.
--RB Chris Brown has missed a significant amount of practice because of back spasms but coaches hope it is not a long-term issue and that he will be back on the field this week.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Running back -- With Chris Brown out and Mike Bell in, the Texans have Chris Taylor, Bell, Darius Walker and Steve Slaton fighting for playing time behind Ahman Green. Preseason is going to be critical for all of the backs, who must prove they can fit well into the zone-blocking scheme and that they can be trusted to hold onto the ball.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Duane Brown vs. Ephraim Salaam for the starting job at LT -- Brown is taking all the reps with the first team, but if he falters, Salaam will be happy to reprise the role he played for the past 30 games. ... Kevin Bentley vs. Zac Diles for OLB -- Diles has the upper hand, but Bentley is trying to get some time of his own there. He joined the Texans in the offseason so he could compete for a starting job.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Andre Johnson -- Johnson tweaked his groin on the last day, but that was the only low point. He is catching everything thrown to him and beating the defensive backs consistently. He is making it easy to forget that he missed seven games with a knee injury last season. The Texans are still nervous he will have a setback or that another injury will creep up, mainly because he is looking so strong when he is on the field.
ROOKIE REPORT: LT Duane Brown has struggled to deal with the heat at times, and he's trying to lose about 10 pounds to put him at 315. But overall, he's taking a lot of reps each day and lining up with the first team. ... CB Antwaun Molden is really turning some heads. He's quickly moving up the depth chart. He has good speed and great instincts. ... RB Steve Slaton is already a fan favorite. He has big-time speed the other running backs lack. He's still slated to be a third-down back. ... DT Frank Okam is fitting in well. He is working at nose tackle and as a three-technique tackle. He mostly rushed the passer inside at Texas, but the coaches see him more as a run stopper in the NFL. ... QB Alex Brink is competing for the No. 3 quarterback job with Shane Boyd. They will see significant playing time in the next two weeks. One will likely play against Denver and the other will play against the Saints.
INJURY REPORT: CB Dunta Robinson was placed on the training camp PUP and he is expected to start the season on the PUP as well. His rehabilitation is going well and the coaches are optimistic he will contribute in the second half of the year.