Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 6/1/12
HOUSTON The concern over the right side of the Texans' offensive line has yet to reach its crescendo. With one week of organized team activities plus mini camp and training camp left to complete, ample time remains to fretfully analyze the losses of Eric Winston and Mike Brisiel. It was a testament to Winston and Brisiel that their departures triggered such widespread panic. Winston had started 87 consecutive games at right tackle before being released and subsequently signed by the Chiefs. Brisiel previously shared reps with Antoine Caldwell at guard before ultimately claiming the starting job outright and shining alongside Winston. Brisiel signed with the Raiders as a free agent. In recent years the Texans presented the camaraderie of their linemen as an asset, therefore significant alterations to that unit were rightfully greeted with skepticism. That Caldwell and Rashad Butler, the presumed heir to Winston, are familiar should assuage some anxiety. "The good thing about it is me and Rashad have been in the system a long time," Caldwell said. "All the terminology is second hand to us. The chemistry has always been good. That's what practice is for: to make sure our chemistry is on point and everybody is on the same page, and it's been real good. "I know I'm comfortable in this system. I've played a lot of ball here. What matters to me is my preparation and my teammates believing in me. We're going to be fine. Me and Rashad are working real hard right now to make sure we stay on the same page. It's probably going to be a smooth transition for us going into the season." Perspective is critical in considering the point of view presented by Caldwell. Over his first two NFL seasons, Caldwell started 10 games compared to 14 for Brisiel. While Brisiel gained a clear edge by the start of 2011, it came as a mild surprise when Caldwell struggled mightily over the three games he started for the injured Brisiel (leg) last season. The assumption that Caldwell can overcome his injury history and admitted bouts with inconsistency and perform at the level Brisiel established requires a modest leap of faith or suspension of disbelief. The Texans are exercising confidence in Caldwell by affording him this opportunity, and that fact isn't lost on the fourth-year Alabama product. "I know at times in my career mentally I've had some inconsistencies," Caldwell said. "It's all about being consistent on a day-in and day-out basis. You've got to be that way to be a good player in this league. "It's an unbelievable blessing and opportunity for me. You work hard to be in a position like this. I sat back and learned behind a great player like Mike. When an opportunity like this presents itself you've got to be able to take advantage of it, and I'm up for it." Butler has overcome his well-documented condition of ulcerative colitis, yet this opening in the lineup has created a competition with second-year tackle Derek Newton, a seventh-round pick out of Arkansas State. Having made just four starts in five seasons with the Texans, Butler must rely more on his familiarity with the system than any slight edge in experience he possesses over Newton, who participated in 14 games as a rookie. Butler can also utilize the working relationship he has established with Caldwell, for the duo has developed a sort of synergy. "I really feel comfortable with Caldwell because me and him got a chance to get a lot of scout reps together when he first got here," Butler said. "I'm really comfortable with the communication between me and him and I'm really comfortable with him knowing what to do every play, and I know he feels the same about me." While Texans coach Gary Kubiak inferred that rookie lineman Brandon Brooks is in the mix for playing time at right guard, he was much more direct in assessing the legitimacy of Newton as a starter at right tackle. The attributes that make Newton a viable option his athleticism and strength are progressively diminishing the lack of knowledge about football that came with Newton playing for a Sun Belt program. As Newton makes strides on the practice field and in film study, the gap between himself and Butler closes. Competition is a welcome addition. "He's playing really well," Kubiak said of Newton. "We're in shorts, so it's hard to tell with big guys. Athletically and then now mentally, Newton is catching up enough to battle for a starting spot. So that'll be a really good battle." Perhaps the emergence of Newton and Brooks can elevate Butler and Caldwell to levels approaching those Winston and Brisiel reached. Given all of the apprehension expressed over the potential demise of the Texans' offense, searching for a silver lining is an earnest endeavor. "They're going to be concerned," Butler said. "Fans are going to be fans and people are going to have opinions. All we've got to do, me and Antoine, is take one play at a time, one practice at a time and one game at a time and just try to improve upon the mistakes that we make. We're going to make mistakes. We're all human." Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
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