Despite the lockout, the Texans have maintained nearly the same schedule for player workouts and unofficial minicamps as they would have during a normal offseason. Earlier this week, the club wrapped up its second unofficial minicamp at Rice University. Led by QB Matt Schaub and ILB DeMeco Ryans, 35 players attended the minicamp. (The Texans had 40 players at their first unofficial minicamp in early June.)
The players opened up the first day of the camp to the media, which gave our source on the scene a great opportunity to get updates on several key members of the Texans' defense. The way we hear it, both ILB Brian Cushing, who had his right knee scoped in January, and OLB Connor Barwin, who is coming off a season-ending ankle injury suffered in Week One, participated fully in practice and are nearing 100 percent in their rehabs.
Ryans, the team's defensive captain, who tore his Achilles in October, coached the defense, where his turning and running were kept to a minimum. Both Ryans and second-year LB Darryl Sharpton, who suffered a torn rotator cuff in Week 16, said they will be ready to go if training camp opens promptly on July 30.
Word is the club likely will bring Ryans and Sharpton along slowly during training camp, however.
The Texans' defense was one of the worst units in the league last season, though its four best defenders — Ryans, Cushing, Barwin and OLB Mario Williams — appeared in less than two games together because of injuries.
Our source also indicated that Williams, who will be asked to stand up as an outside 'backer in new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme, appeared to be in tremendous physical condition, having shed several pounds. After making 77 consecutive starts to begin his career, Williams spent the final three games of the 2010 campaign on injured reserve with a sports hernia injury.
TE-FB James Casey, who could become 2010 NFL rushing champion Arian Foster's lead blocker this season if unrestricted free-agent FB Vonta Leach does not re-sign with the club, also looked exceptional after adding 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason.