Already without Ed Reed while he recovers from offseason hip surgery, injuries sustained this weekend have left the Houston Texans thin at safety entering Sunday's third preseason game against New Orleans.
Safeties Shiloh Keo, Eddie Pleasant and rookie Orhian Johnson were all injured on Saturday against the Dolphins, leaving coach Gary Kubiak concerned about the group.
Things looked better on Monday when Kubiak said Johnson was fine and Keo was doing better and participated in some portions of practice. Pleasant remained out with a sprained knee.
Kubiak was worried on Sunday that the team might have to pick up another safety, but Monday's developments made him feel much better.
"We're not quite in as bad of shape as we were during the game with those guys being out," Kubiak said. "If Keo makes it back and Johnson is fine this week, I think we can hold up."
The Texans are closely watching the recovery of Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowler who signed with Houston in the offseason.
Kubiak has said he hopes to have him back for Houston's season opener, but there is no guarantee he'll be ready by then.
They have been encouraged by the work he's done in his rehabilitation, which has included spending time in Atlanta to work with the people who helped him come back from his last hip surgery.
"We think he's ahead and has responded very well," Kubiak said. "We were going (send him to Atlanta) again this week for a few days.
"So we're just exhausting everything we possibly can do to get him ready to go and push toward the beginning of the season. There has been a lot of progress — lot of good progress."
Kubiak said they plan to have Reed be examined by the doctor who performed the surgery to repair his partly torn labrum by the end of this week, and they hope to know more about his status following that visit.
With Reed out, the Texans have had a chance to give rookie second-round pick D.J. Swearinger extra work, and have been impressed with his development. He said he feels more confident every day.
"I've improved tremendously since when I first got here until now," he said. "There are a whole lot of things — just understanding the defense; my eyes, me being disciplined in certain coverage's and I've gotten way better."
Swearinger was drafted by the Texans after starting for four seasons at South Carolina where he developed a reputation as one of the hardest hitting defensive backs in the Southeastern Conference.
That style of play has already placed him at the center of controversy, after Miami tight end Dustin Keller sustained a season-ending knee injury when Swearinger hit him on the knee with his helmet in Saturday's game.
"I'm sorry it happened like that," he said, adding that he was taught to hit low to avoid fines. "I was just playing football and didn't mean anything by it, but I'm hoping he has a speedy recovery and gets back."
Swearinger felt bad that Keller was injured on the play, but doesn't plan to change his aggressive style because of the incident.
"I've seen the play and it was just a freak accident," he said. "I was just going out and making a tackle and his leg just sort of got stuck ... hitting hard has gotten me this far and that's something that I take pride in. I don't take pride on hurting anybody, but I take pride on hitting hard and that's what I'm just going to continue to do."
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