Terrance Martin is ready to make good on a promise.
"I told coach (Dom) Capers when I came here that I would never let him down and I would never fail him," Martin said. "I feel that come Sunday, I will be ready."
Martin signed with the Texans five months ago as an undrafted free agent. He will make his first NFL start Sunday at nose tackle in the Texans' home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs at Reliant Stadium.
Martin moved into the starting role after veteran Seth Payne suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Sunday's 31-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints that will sideline him the remainder of the season.
Martin is one of only two undrafted free agents to make the Texans ' roster - linebacker Jimmy McClain is the other - and he will become the first such player to start a game for the second-year franchise. The 6-2, 290-pound defensive lineman first caught the Texans' attention at the Senior Bowl, where Capers and his staff coached one of the teams.
The Texans coaching staff did not get a good look at Martin due to an injury, but he impressed defensive line coach Todd Grantham. The team also had Martin rated higher than some of the defensive linemen selected in the draft, Capers said.
Martin was an even longer shot to make the roster out of training
"I've had to take the hard road before, and if I have to come through the back door again, that's how I'll do it," Martin said. "It's going to be hard on me because I have a lot to learn in a short period of time, but I feel like I can get it done."
Martin, who has worked mostly at defensive end, had some obstacles along his road to the NFL. The Virginia native wanted to play his college football at West Virginia but was a non-qualifier and had to spend two years at Hinds Community College in Mississippi. From there, he went to North Carolina State, where he started 13 games in two years.
Come Sunday, Martin will have several responsibilities. Payne was considered the quarterback of the defensive line at nose tackle. He called audibles, made checks, and generally made sure the three linemen were on the same page. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio likely will scale back some of the schemes up front to ease the burden on Martin.
Further complicating matters for the Texans: Because Pro Bowl defensive end Gary Walker is still trying to recover from a sprained left shoulder, the Texans will play the Chiefs without two-thirds of their starting defensive line. Martin joins veterans Corey Sears and Jerry DeLoach, the only remaining starter of the group. Junior Ioane and eight-year veteran Steve Martin - no relation to Terrance - are the reserves.
"When you lose a good football player, everyone around him has to play a little better," Capers said. "Seth stepped up and played outstanding against Miami, and we needed him to do that with Gary out. Now we need someone to step up and do that now that Seth is not in there. It's hard to say (how much Steve Martin will play). He's a veteran, and he's been with a number of different clubs. He's had to learn different systems. He knows what he's up against."
--In less than a year, running back Jonathan Wells has gone from being the Texans' leading rusher to the bottom of the depth chart. Now some are beginning to wonder if he has a future in Houston.
"Don't know," Wells said. "I don't know how the rotation is going to go."
Wells' lack of time in the backfield can be traced to several reasons. The Texans signed free-agent Stacey Mack during the offseason, selected Domanick Davis in the draft and took Tony Hollings in the supplemental draft. A turf toe injury also kept Wells out for most of training camp.
Through the first two games, Mack has seen the bulk of the workload with 40 rushing attempts -- or 69 percent of the Texans' carries. Davis, used primarily as a third-down back, is the only other player with at least 10 carries.
Wells, who led the Texans with 529 yards and started the final 11 games as a rookie, was active for the first time this season against New Orleans and was limited to special-team duty.
"It's different," Wells said. "I would definitely like to get the ball. That's what I came here to do ... to play running back. It's a team sport, and right now I've been forced to be a special-teams guy. And that's what I'm going to do until I get another opportunity to tote the football. I definitely look forward to getting back in there."
--The Texans signed linebacker Travis Carroll to their practice squad Sept. 16 and released linebacker Justin Seaverns. Carroll played in seven games for the Saints the past two seasons, including in the opener against Seattle this season. He played under Texans defensive backs coach Jon Hoke at the University of Florida. Seaverns was originally signed to the practice squad Sept. 10.
--The Texans' decision to claim safety Marlon McCree from the Jacksonville Jaguars should be considered a sign they are not pleased with starting free safety Matt Stevens. To make room for McCree, the team waived safety Travares Tillman, who was expected to compete with Stevens for the job before breaking his forearm during the first week of training camp. The team still has interest in Tillman and likely will attempt to bring him back. McCree started all 16 games for the Jaguars in 2002 when he led the team with six interceptions. But he was moved into a backup role this season when the Jaguars selected Rashean Mathis in the second round. Stevens has been a major disappointment. Already this season Stevens has missed several key tackles that have led to scores.
-- DE Gary Walker has been sidelined nearly five weeks with a sprained left shoulder. He participated in his most extensive practice Wednesday since suffering the injury during a preseason game against Dallas in mid-August. Walker said he is "a lot closer than any other Sunday" to returning to the lineup, although coach Dom Capers acknowledged this week that Walker could be out at least another two weeks. Doctors originally told Walker he would miss from four to six weeks.
-- K Kris Brown has been bothered this week with a sore groin, but is expected to be OK for Sunday's game with the Chiefs. Punter Chad Stanley is the emergency kicker is Brown is unable to play.
-- LG Milford Brown will miss at least two weeks with a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Brown is not expected to return until after the Oct. 5 bye week.
-- LB Antwan Peek is out indefinitely with a sprained lateral collateral ligament in his right knee.