Behind enemy lines: Texans Q&As

Texans coach Gary Kubiak and DE J.J. Watt spoke with the Baltimore media on a conference call Wednesday. Here's what they had to say.

Head Coach Gary Kubiak

  On losing key players in free agency and still being able to sustain a 5-1 record so far this season: "I think it's part of this league nowadays. It's just the way this league is built, the salary cap. You're not able to hang on to everybody, especially when you have players becoming successful players and those types of things. You're having to re-do some things with your team year-in and year-out. I think that's strictly salary cap. Everybody has to battle through that. I don't think we're the only one. There is probably more turnover in football from year to year right now than there's ever been."

  On how surprised he is that the Texans and Ravens are the only teams in the AFC with winning records and what he attributes that to: "I think there is great balance in this league, and not just the AFC. Anybody can beat anybody on a given day. Everybody has a good core of players, and yet, everybody in this league goes through tough times with injuries and those types of things, which change things week to week. I think it's a great game and very competitive. It's one or two plays a week that are the difference in whether or not you win or lose. So, it doesn't surprise me. It's a league where you battle all year long, and you try to get yourself in position in that last month to be playing good enough to hopefully win a championship. It's very early in the season. Everybody is battling, and obviously, we know you guys have a great football team and have had for quite awhile now. It's a big challenge for us."

  On if the Texans will try to exploit the Ravens' run defense: "Well, we're struggling ourselves. We did not run the ball a lick last week, and obviously, weren't very successful as a football team. We've struggled some early. We've had some changes. Our offensive line has kind of been redone, with our right side being, basically, two rookies over there. So, we've had our issues ourselves. The one thing that jumps at me is they may have given up some yards on the ground, but they're winning those games. The bottom line in this league is you have to do what you have to do to win. We have ourselves to worry about right now. We have to find a way to protect our quarterback a little better, run the ball a little better. We came out of last week with plenty of issues to correct ourselves."

  On what he learned about the defense in last Sunday's game vs. Green Bay: "That guy [Packers QB Aaron Rodgers] has taught many people lessons. He is a great player. We struggled. We had a hard time getting to him. When we didn't get to him, he made a lot of big plays. When we did get to him, he got rid of the ball quick and still made his plays. We were a different group going out there last week. We are missing a big, big leader of our defense [LB Brian Cushing], so we have to adjust to that. So, that is disappointing from that standpoint, but it's one loss. You have to go back this week and correct things, let things go and come back and be a much better football team. You can't let things hang on too long in this league. You have to move on one way or another from week to week."

  On how much of a blow last Sunday's game vs. Green Bay was to the defense's psyche: "That's a blow to your team when you go get beat like that. It's not about defense or a player or special teams or offense. You go out there, and you get your butt beat like that in this league, it's a humbling experience. Like I said, everybody is very capable of doing that in this league. Obviously, we just went right back to work on Monday. The things that we talk about doing to be successful, we didn't do any of those things Sunday night. Hopefully, we are going to have a good week here of practice and get back to consistently doing those things and giving ourselves a chance to win."

  On if the matchup between the Ravens and Texans is a "budding rivalry": "Yeah, but it's been one-sided. You guys have taken care of us all the times that we've played them since I've been here. You've got a helluva a football team, and it's a big, big challenge for us. Coming off of last week, we've got many issues to correct to go out and be competitive. I think every time we get together, it's a physical game. Special teams are always very big in the game or have been in all the past games, and [they're] usually pretty tight games. We know what we're going to get from you all and what kind of football team you all are. We'll have to be at our best."

  On if the rivalry being one-sided gives Houston any extra motivation: "You better have motivation every week, regardless of who you are playing, and that's our message to our team. We try to stay focused on ourselves. Obviously, it's a big game early in the season in the AFC and all of those things, but we've got to stay focused on what we're doing and correcting our football. We're trying to get our team playing as good as they can possibly play, and that wasn't the case last week."

  On if defenses are doing anything differently against WR Andre Johnson: "He always gets some special attention. Andre's coming off a couple of years with some injuries. He did miss a lot of training camp, so we are bringing him along a little different this year than we have in the past. We are limiting some of his plays during the course of a game. My biggest goal for Andre is to have him available for this team 16 times this year and try to keep him healthy. I thought he played real well last week. I think he's getting better each and every week. The good news is we have some young players making some plays, so we've been able to spread the ball around a little bit. It's usually what we do best. We have a lot of people making plays – not just one or two guys."

  On if Johnson is doing around 75 percent of what he was doing last year or in previous years: "I can't really go back to last year, because he missed 10 games. In the past, Andre would go play 70, 75 plays in a football game three or four years ago with no problems at all. We're trying to have that somewhere around 45 or 50 a week. We are trying to take 20 snaps off of him and keep him fresh in a game. Also, [we are] keeping a count on him throughout the course of the season, because I think we may have worn him down a little bit in the past – that's what I'm talking about. Plus, we have a lot of confidence in these two young kids that are playing for us and doing a pretty good job."

  On if it is weird to prepare for a game against the Ravens without LB Ray Lewis: "All the years I've been in this league, whether it was Denver or here, I know every time I've lined up he's been there.  I have such respect for him – one of the all-time great players in this game. I understand how it is. You lose players in this league. We are going through the exact same thing with [ILB] Brian [Cushing], and that's the hard part of this league. You're going to lose the guys. You're going to have to battle through situations, and how you handle those things over the course of the season usually has a lot to do with your success."

  On if he has ever seen a defensive player have a season like DE J.J. Watt is having: "He's been playing pretty darn good. He's getting his hands on a lot of balls. He's a factor in a lot of plays. He showed signs of that at the end of last year – the couple of playoff games he was exceptional – and I think it's carried over. He did miss training camp, so we were concerned about that. So I guess that means camp is overrated, because he's played pretty [darn] well. (laughter) He's a young player, plays with a lot of energy, very smart player. I think he's learning this league more and more each week, and it's helping him be successful."

  On CB Johnathan Joseph's groin injury: "He's had a sore groin. It's flared up on him a couple of times throughout the course of the first six weeks. We dealt with it a couple of times last year. We know how to manage it. It's something that he's worked through. We'll have to manage it again this week, but we are probably looking at the end of the week as far as knowing his availability. But, it's something that we've dealt with before."

  On if he would consider giving Joseph the week off because of his injury: "No. We are full-throttle each week trying to win a game, so hopefully he will be ready to go. We would never risk any player that we didn't think wasn't ready to play. Like I said, this is something we've managed before, and he's gone out there and played very well. Hopefully, we can manage it again, but we will always do right by the player. But, we need all hands on deck [to] try to win another game."

  On the comment LB Brian Cushing made that the Ravens' offense was a little vanilla, and what he has seen from the Ravens' offense this year: "I don't know anything about him saying that, nor do I recall that. First off, their quarterback is playing tremendous. They are spreading the field, throwing the ball around a lot more than they have in the past, and I just think that tells you the job that Cam [Cameron] has done with him and the type of player that Joe [Flacco] has become. This offense is, to me, one of the toughest to defend in football, because they can line up, and they can pound the heck out of you with Vonta [Leach] and Ray [Rice]. They have one of the top three-down backs in football. This is a very well-rounded offensive football team that can move the ball on you both ways and a big, big challenge for our defense."

  On his thoughts on matching up against WR/RS Jacoby Jones: "Boy, he is playing well. And congratulations to him – what a return last week. We know what Jacoby is capable of. He did it for us here. He's always made some big plays, and he's making them not only on special teams, but catching a lot of balls also. We know what we are facing in Jacoby. He's a dynamic player. He's got an ability to make big plays. He's doing a heck of a job for you guys."

  DE J.J. Watt

  On what he has seen from the Ravens' offense: "They're a good football team. They have a balanced attack. Obviously, Ray Rice is a great running back. Joe Flacco is a very good quarterback. They can do many things, and we're excited about the challenge."

  On if he looks at this game as a "redemption game": "Obviously, that's in the back of your mind, but we're looking at this week as that we need to get back on our horse. We obviously had a rough one last week, and this is a chance for us to play against the other best team in the AFC. There is nothing more you can ask for as a football player than to go out there and play head to head, and that's what you can ask for."

  On the difference between the Ravens' offensive line this year and last year: "Obviously, it's a little bit different. Michael Oher is on the other side. [There's] a new left guard, a new right tackle. So, there's a little bit different personnel, but that's our goal. Our goal is always, first, to stop the run and then to attack the passer and try and make him make mistakes and hopefully throw some throws he doesn't want to throw. You have to always stop the run first."

  On if he is surprised by the start he has had to his season: "I don't know about surprised. I work very hard for it, and when you put in the work and the effort and have the players I have around me and the defensive coordinator, I think it's great and it's awesome, and I am going to try to keep it going because I am having a lot of fun. I think it's a product of not just me. I have always said that it's definitely not just a one-man show. Everyone around me is playing great, giving me opportunities. [Defensive coordinator Wade] Phillips puts me in position to make plays, and that's all you can ask for as a player."

  On if he has disproved the myth that you need to go through training camp to have a good season: "I don't know. I missed all four games, and I said at that time that I felt like I was an animal in a cage, and they finally let me out of my cage in the regular season. So, I've been hungry ever since, and my hunger is still not satisfied. So, I'm still making up for lost time. I just enjoy being out there with my teammates. Being out for those four weeks, it really shows you how much you love the game and how much you love being out there and playing with your teammates and letting it all loose. So, I think it was not fun to sit out, but it was also one of those blessings in disguise."

  On what the Texans' secondary brings to the table and the loss to Green Bay: "We have a great secondary. We can take the blame for that [loss] upfront. We didn't put enough pressure on the quarterback. We didn't get him down enough, so we'll take the blame for that. We have a great secondary, and they give us time. I have 9.5 sacks, and I'd say our secondary gives me enough time to get to the quarterback. So, they deserve a lot of credit. They've been playing great this year."

  On how CB Kareem Jackson has improved this year: "He's very confident out there. He's playing good football. He's confident. He's making big plays for us, and that's all you can ask. It's good to see that improvement for him, to see him stepping up – it's great."

  On if he has noticed a noticeable difference in Jackson this year: "I think so. You look at the interceptions that he's getting and the plays he's making … He's playing very good football this year."

  On what the defense learned about itself after the game against Green Bay: "We learned we have to play better if we want to beat a team like that, and we  didn't play as well as we normally play. Obviously, we ran into a great team with a very, very, very good quarterback who had a great night. We didn't play our best, and they played their best. It's tough to win when that's the situation."

  On if he looks at this game as a way to gain some separation as the top team of the AFC: "Of course. I think that's the way both teams are looking at this. Obviously, the two top teams of the AFC facing off against each other, you know the team that wins will have a big advantage moving forward, so it's a big game. It's a great opportunity, and we're really excited about it. Like I said before, it's a chance to settle it on the field, and that's all you can ask for as a football player – the chance to go out there on the field and settle the score."

  On if it surprises him that the Ravens and the Texans are the only two teams above .500 in the AFC: "I didn't even know that until yesterday when somebody told me. That is kind of crazy, but obviously, they are a very good football team and we're a very good football team. So, it's definitely not surprising that we have those records. [We are] two very good football teams and very-well coached. They are a great-coached football team with a lot of great football players up there. It's going to be a great challenge for us."

On the mood of the defensive players in the meeting rooms after the Packers game: "We're hungry. We're hungry to get back out there and prove ourselves. We know that was a poor showing from us Sunday night. We didn't play our best, so we want to get back out there and show what we're all about and that we're back on track."

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