Texans look to CB Bennett to lead

HOUSTON [SPORTS BLOG: Read the latest from the Eyewitness Sports team]

It helped that his friend and college mentor Dunta Robinson was already starring in the Texans secondary when he arrived in Houston.

With Robinson skipping camp in a contract holdout and six-year veteran Jacques Reeves out with a broken leg, the Texans are counting on Bennett to use that confidence and lead this shaky group.

Coach Gary Kubiak said Bennett's more mature this year. He also said the absence of Reeves and Robinson creates an opportunity for the 25-year-old Bennett, who struggled a bit last season after a solid rookie year.

"All those young guys are looking at him, basically six young guys watching Fred," Kubiak said. "That's unusual to be in year three and be the big veteran in the group. That's another challenge for him."

It's a role that Bennett is working to embrace but is still a bit foreign to him.

"For them to be coming to me and taking it in from me I'm like: 'Wow, I really am the leader back here,' so it's fun," Bennett said.

He started eight games as a rookie, filling in when Robinson was injured, and led the team with three interceptions, but started just six games last year with Robinson healthy and Reeves playing well.

"That's part of the NFL," Kubiak said. "It's not easy. It's tough, and it's hard to get to the top and even harder to stay on top if you're a starter. I think he's figuring out how fragile that opportunity is."

The Texans added veteran Deltha O'Neal on Thursday, but he's not even practicing with the team yet as he works to get into shape. So that leaves Bennett as the starter on one side and a bevy of young players competing to play opposite him.

"It's a little bit of a scary situation for us as a team but we'll see what happens," Kubiak said. "Sometimes you find players that way."

Bennett said he talks to Robinson often, but tries to avoid talk of his contract situation and just be a friend. Robinson is skipping camp because he's unhappy the Texans used the franchise tag on him.

Bennett's grateful for all of Robinson's help but is prepared to move forward alone until he returns to the team.

"I think I'm ready for the challenge," Bennett said. "I had (Robinson) for two years and I think he's taught me enough and I think I've grown up and become more mature. I think I'm capable of being a leader."

Rookies Glover Quin and Brice McCain and Matterral Richardson, who was a free agent last season but has yet to play in an NFL game, are some of the young players competing for a spot. Quin was a fourth-round pick out of New Mexico and McCain was taken in the sixth round from Utah.

Both Quin and McCain are working hard to adjust to the NFL and figure covering Andre Johnson, who led the NFL in receiving last season, each day in practice will help expedite the process.

Bennett remembers the crash course he received his first season when he lined up across from Johnson.

"He's going to treat you like he's been in the league 10 years," Bennett said. "He doesn't care who lines up in front of him he's going to treat them all the same. That's competition and that's good for the youngsters to go against him just to get used to a high-profile receiver like that."

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