Thursday notebook: McNair talks; opportunity knocks

Texans coach Gary Kubiak had company in the post-practice huddle on Thursday, as Texans chairman and CEO Bob McNair spoke to players for several minutes after Kubiak finished addressing the team.

“He was just talking to the guys and trying to reinforce some things that we’ve been talking about, talking about staying positive and keep working,” Kubiak said. “It’s good for him every now then to talk to them.”

McNair typically speaks to the players after practice a few times each season.

“That’s not the first time he spoke to us when we’ve been going through something,” wide receiver Andre Johnsons aid. “This year has been frustrating for everybody. I really couldn’t say it’s frustrating for one person more than others. It’s been frustrating for everybody. I’m pretty sure it’s been very frustrating for him also. What he said today, I just really feel like he was saying what he had on his heart and what he was feeling at the time.”

Opportunity knocks
Defensive ends and could be used in a rotation in place of , who was put on injured reserve on Wednesday. Kubiak has been particularly impressed with Jamison’s play in recent weeks.

“It’s an opportunity for some young guys,” Kubiak said. “Tim’s been getting the opportunities and taking advantage of it.”

will start at right guard for the injured . , who has been inactive for all but one game this season, also could get a look at the right guard spot.

“We’ll see whether we rotate or Gump (Caldwell) goes the whole way,” Kubiak said.

Kubiak said that defensive tackle DeMario Pressley, signed Wednesday off the Saints’ practice squad, will be active on Sunday. Defensive end Jarvis Green, signed Thursday, will not be active.

Rackers OK
Kicker has not practiced yet this week because of a right hamstring injury. Kubiak said it’s of no concern.

“They say it’s very mild and they are just being smart, and he told me, ‘Coach, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine,’” Kubiak said. “He’s actually going to kick some tomorrow.”

Rackers is 21-of-24 on field goal attempts this season.

Leach to the Beach
With four days left in fan voting for the Pro Bowl, the “Leach to the Beach” campaign has picked up steam as fullback ’s teammates are hoping to rally support to get him to Hawaii.

Wide receiver , running back , center , left tackle and tight end are among those who have been campaigning for Leach to make the Pro Bowl during interviews and on Twitter.

“I do (appreciate that), but that’s not the most important thing,” Leach said. “We have three games left here. The most important thing is to try to get wins. Everybody wants to go, but first you look at what you did as a team and then you look at individual stuff. I just hope that Arian goes there. If I go, I go. If I don’t, I don’t.”

Leach has played an integral part in Foster’s success this season, serving as the lead blocker for the league-leader in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage.

“It’s a position in this business that’s rare, really, right now,” Kubiak said. “There are probably 10 teams that actually line up in the I (formation) and have an iso-fullback. From that standpoint, Vonta is a hell of a player from what he does for us. Anytime you’re leading the way for the leading rusher in football, you get some respect… It’ll be interesting to see. I think he was an alternate last year. Usually when the guy behind you is doing good, you get some credit, too. He does a really good job.”

2010 season in review: Defensive line

Top performer: DE (8.5 sacks)

Newcomers: DT (draft, third-round pick), DE (free agent), DT (free agent), DE (free agent)

Major injuries: DE (ankle, Week 1), Williams (groin, Week 13), (shoulder, preseason), DE (knee, Week 14)

Position coach: Bill Kollar (22nd NFL season, 2nd with Texans)

Year in review: Williams, a Pro Bowler in 2008 and 2009, was slowed by a nagging sports hernia injury for most of the season. He finally landed on injured reserve on Dec. 15. He still led the Texans in sacks and upped his career total to 48.0, which ranks seventh in the NFL since his rookie year of 2006.

Defensive end continued to be one of the Texans’ most consistently productive linemen. A seventh-year veteran, Smith excelled against the run, had 4.0 sacks and applied constant pressure to opposing quarterbacks.

Barwin was expected to be a high-impact pass rusher in his second NFL season, but he was lost for the year in the first quarter of the season opener against Indianapolis. Bulman missed the entire season with a shoulder injury, and Nading was placed on injured reserve in Week 14.

Defensive end Mark Anderson joined the Texans in Week 4 after being released by the . In just 11 games, he tied Smith for second on the team with 4.0 sacks, including sacks in two of the last three games of the season.

Defensive end played in 10 games, notching his first-career start in Week 15 at Tennessee and his first sack a week later at Denver. Ninth-year veteran Jarvis Green signed with the Texans late in the season but did not appear in any games. Adewale Ogunleye played in four games before being released on Nov. 2.

Starting defensive tackles and helped the Texans rank 13th in the league in rushing defense. Okoye led all Texans linemen with a career-high 45 tackles to go with 3.0 sacks. Cody had a career-high 38 tackles and started 16 games for the first time in his career.

Mitchell, a third-round pick out of Arizona, played in 15 games. A high-motor player, he had 28 tackles and made his first-career sack in Week 15 at Tennessee. Tenth-year veteran Lewis signed with the Texans during the bye week (10/25) and had 17 tackles and a sack in 10 games. DeMarrio Pressley was inactive for the final three games of the season after signing from the ’ practice squad.

Season highlight: Week 2 vs. Washington. Williams dominated with three sacks, two tackles for loss and two passes defensed in the Texans’ dramatic come-from-behind victory.

Two of Williams’ sacks came in the game’s waning minutes. He dropped Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb for a 14-yard loss with 1:20 left in the fourth quarter to help force overtime. He then sacked McNabb on first play of overtime and pressured him into throwing an incomplete pass four plays later.

Season lowlight: Week 1 at Indianapolis. Barwin suffered a gruesome, season-ending ankle injury on the Colts’ 16th play from scrimmage. As he and Smith pursued Colts running back Joseph Addai in the backfield, Smith accidentally collided with Barwin’s lower right leg right just as Barwin planted his foot to cut upfield. Barwin was down for several minutes, writhing in pain as his ankle dangled from his leg, before being carted away to the locker room.

Barwin had led all rookie defensive ends with 4.5 sacks in 2009. The Texans had high hopes for him in 2010, designing a slew of hybrid packages to take advantage of his athletic ability as a rush end. It was a major blow from which the defense never really recovered.

Notable number: 37.5 – Percentage of the Texans’ sacks that Williams has accounted for since 2007. Williams has 43.5 sacks in those four seasons. Only John Abraham of the Falcons (38.1 percent) has accounted for a higher share of his team’s sacks than Williams during that time frame.

Key splits: Williams played in 13 games before going on injured reserve. He had six sacks in five victories, and only 2.5 sacks in eight losses. For his career, Williams has 30 sacks in 36 victories and 18 sacks in 41 losses.

Williams had 2.5 sacks in seven home games in 2010. He had 6.0 sacks in seven games on the road. That was actually a marked difference from his career splits; Williams has 28.5 sacks in 39 career home games compared to 19.5 sacks in 38 career road games. He also has forced seven fumbles at home compared to three on the road.

Quotable: “I definitely want to say, you know, I appreciate the help from the fans behind our bench. It really meant a lot, talking all that noise. It’s great to have 92,000 shut up. “
– Williams, after the Texans’ Week 2 victory at Washington, where he said Redskins fans were taunting him by telling him to “eat a mushroom” in reference to the Super Mario Bros. video game

Looking ahead: Changes are obviously in store as the Texans move from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Williams and Smith will remain at end, while Mitchell and Cody are candidates to start at nose tackle. Barwin and Nading have been moved to outside linebacker.

Anderson, a pleasant surprise in 2010, will be a free agent this offseason. The five-year veteran was tendered by the Texans, but he would be unrestricted if the requirement for free agency returns to four years.