Notes: Barwin blossoms, QB input

Notes from the Texans’ practice and locker room on Thursday at Reliant Stadium:

Veteran QB input
With just five career starts in the NFL, all of which came over the last month, quarterback T.J. Yates lacks for experience. But he’s blessed with an ample supply of quarterback consultants in the form of , , and , as well as coaches Greg Knapp and Gary Kubiak. Yates appreciates the input, and described Thursday how Schaub has helped him.

“Every day, every practice, every film session, every time we’re doing something, they’re always helping me out with all the little stuff,” Yates said. “Matt Schaub has been in this offense for a very long time and has a lot of information that even some of the coaches don’t have because he’s been through it all. He’s run these plays before many, many times, so often referring back to him on just little tidbits he has on certain plays and just trying to pick his brain as much as possible because he’s got so much information up there that’s so helpful. He helps me out a lot.”

Between Delhomme and Garcia, the two have combined to play in 14 career playoff games, and have explained to Yates the difference between those contests and regular season ones.

“It’s faster,” Yates said. “Everything’s amped up. It’s kind of like the transition from preseason to regular season. The level of play keeps stepping up. Everything’s faster. Everything’s quicker. Everybody’s going at that next level and you got to step up as well.”

Phillips’ Health
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is steadily recuperating after being on medical leave for a pair of games. He talked about his health today with reporters, and described what sidelined him.

“I did have my gallbladder taken out,” Phillips said. “It was more than we thought it was originally, but it’s still done, and everything’s positive.”

Phillips wishes he felt more energetic, but knows that being tired is part of the healing process. It’s going to take some time, but he said he’s well on his way.

“My energy level isn’t where I want it to be,” Phillips said. “I feel good going out there, and the last couple of days have been better, going the whole practice, that kind of thing. I feel good, and then my energy’s kind of dropped, but health-wise I’m fine.”

Phillips also said that after a doctor’s visit yesterday, he was told that “they didn’t need to see me anymore, that I’m fine.”

Barwin blossoms
With a team-best 11.5 sacks, outside linebacker has flourished in Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. He was excited to switch from defensive end after Phillips was hired last January, and his coaches have been excited at the way he’s played.

“He’s been exceptional,” Kubiak said. “Think about how far he’s come. He’s a rookie in a lot of ways after the injury he went through last year and to play the way he’s played I think he’s played at a Pro Bowl level. Connor has got a brilliant future ahead of him, I mean, with how far he’s come, he’s been a big, big leader on our football team and we’re all very proud of him.”

Phillips saw the possibilities with Barwin, and said the move from defensive end to outside linebacker was a natural transition. With Barwin and in that spot, the Texans defense has made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.

“You know, 11.5 sacks, he probably had one or two called back, but he had 11.5 sacks and Mario had five, that’s 16.5 at that position,” Phillips said. “So, he helped that position remain dominant for us and that’s what you need in a 3-4.”

Quotable
“’s the best linebacker at least in the AFC that I’ve seen this year. He reminds me a little bit of Chris Spielman except he’s a lot faster. I had Spielman at the end of his career in Buffalo, and he had great instinct. He makes more outstanding plays sideline to sideline than any guys I see.”—Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips on Cushing.

“Everybody is on their P’s and Q’s this week.”—Quarterback T.J. Yates on whether or not the players’ have had a higher degree of accountability this week.

No surprise: Kubiak expects Yates to play vs. Bengals

Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates’ shoulder injury is not expected to jeopardize his availability for Saturday’s playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Reliant Stadium.

Yates bruised his non-throwing (left) shoulder in the first quarter on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. With the Texans already locked into the No. 3 seed in the AFC, he did not return to the game for precautionary reasons.

“He’s feeling pretty good today,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said on Monday. “I mean, he’s sore. Like I said, we still think he could’ve came back in the game yesterday, so all indications are that he’ll be ready to go next weekend. Obviously, we’ve got to get him back on the practice field to feel good and confident about that, but all indications are that we’ll get there. We’ll do it day-to-day.”

After getting injured on the Texans’ first play on Sunday, Yates stayed in the game and completed 4-of-4 passes for 47 yards. He led the offense on a 13-play, 90-yard touchdown drive.

“If he can play, he’s going to play,” Kubiak said. “He played really well yesterday, was very sharp early in the game. Continues to do good stuff, as I’ve told y’all. He’s very young and this is a big, big game, but he’s the best guy for our football team and if he’s able to go and do the things that we need him to do in practice, then we’ll turn him loose and let him go.”

In six games, Yates has completed 82-of-134 passes (61.2 percent) for 949 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. He has a passer rating of 80.7. The fifth-round draft pick from North Carolina threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns at Cincinnati in Week 14, leading the Texans to a 20-19 comeback victory.

Kubiak said he has been impressed with Yates’ preparation behind the scenes.

“Sitting down (with him) the night before a game, answering questions, going through a game plan, his reads and all those things, he’s a very quick thinker on the field,” Kubiak said. “Things happen fast for him. Sometimes they happen a little too fast, and you can see that as a young guy, but he’s very sharp with what we’re trying to go get done on gameday. He handles the group very well. They’ve got a lot of confidence in him. Even though he’s young and has his own issues, he can still help everybody out and seems to be getting better every time that he’s out there.”

Right guard is the only other Texans starter with a significant injury concern heading into Saturday. He has missed the last three games after fracturing his fibula against the Bengals on Dec. 11. Kubiak is hopeful Brisiel can return to practice this week and said he “may be able to contribute this next weekend.”

Kubiak said that offensive tackle (hip), linebacker (neck) and cornerback (back spasms) are all day-to-day.

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Notes: Brisiel’s recovery, Tate’s big season

Notes from the Texans’ practice and locker room on Thursday at Reliant Stadium:

No change in backups
T.J. Yates has started the previous four games at quarterback, and is now backed up by and . He’ll start again Sunday against the Titans, and according to head coach Gary Kubiak, Delhomme is still second on the depth chart.

“I think Jake’s a little bit ahead just because he had about a week head start, so one’s four weeks, one’s three weeks with us,” Kubiak said of the difference between the two behind Yates. “That’s not a lot of time, but they’re both working very hard at it and if something happened to T.J., they could go in and operate. Obviously we couldn’t operate at full throttle with what we do offensively, but they’ve made a lot of progress.”

Brisiel getting well
Right guard continues his rehab of an ankle/lower leg injury he suffered against the Bengals. It’s an injury that’s been described as very similar to safety ’s and according to Kubiak, Brisiel is doing “exceptional” in his recuperation.

“He’s a little over two weeks out of the surgery,” Kubiak said. “He is doing field work, so everything is geared up towards him possibly playing next week. I would be wrong to make a statement on that right now, but he is making progress.”

Manning left the Titans’ game in Week 7, and returned to start against Jacksonville in Week 12.

Tate’s big season
With more than 800 yards rushing as a backup, running back ’s enjoyed a fine 2011. His rookie year was lost due to a leg injury he suffered in the 2010 preseason opener at Arizona, but since Week 1, Tate has contributed this season.

“I thank God,” Tate said. “It’s a blessing and I thank him every day for it. I come back, had I think a pretty good year. So, if I get a thousand yards or not, to me, I think it’ll be a very, very successful year for me.”

Tate was asked about cracking the 1,000 yard mark, and he said it would be tough to pick up the 155 yards he needs, with in front of him.

Quotable
“Division matchups are always finicky.”—Right tackle on playing the Titans for the second time this season.

“We emphasize it every week and the amazing thing about it, as bad as it was, we still had our chance, in my opinion, to win the last two games. So, we got to stay positive here.”—Head coach Gary Kubiak on if he’s re-emphasized the importance of converting on third down.