Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 8/13/12
HOUSTON Sometimes it's easy to forget how quickly things are unfolding for Texans right tackle Derek Newton, to overlook the haste with which some expect him to transition from an athletic-yet-raw Arkansas State product to a starting lineman for a prolific offense. Newton has had plaudits heaped upon him, praise that belied his repetitions as a rookie. One can distort context of the speed of his development. In 12 months Newton has graduated from a behemoth with ample tools yet insufficient technique to a legitimate heir to Eric Winston, or at least a viable option in the competition to replace him. It was difficult to dismiss contemplation of where Newton is heading as he logged game repetitions last Saturday against the Panthers. His potential has been touted so frequently that it felt natural to cast an overly critical eye on his performance when, in truth, Newton has plenty of room to grow. His strides are simultaneously massive and miniature. "I feel better about myself this year," Newton said. "Last year I had a lot of pressure on me and I feel like this year I'm more calm. I just went out there and was able to play." The pressure that burdened Newton last season was self-induced. He was a seventh-round pick (214th overall) in the 2011 draft, thus wasn't scrutinized as an expected contributor on a line flush with veterans. But even in the madness that was last season's training camp, harried by a lockout that erased organized team activities and minicamps, Newton flashed promise. Those moments of exceptionality were fleeting yet they portended to what Newton might one day become with proper nurturing. Clearly Newton heard the chatter about his ceiling, and while most of his 14 games were spent contributing on special teams, Newton pushed himself to be something better than he could have been. This training camp the pressure is valid. Winston is in to Kansas City and while Rashad Butler is first in line as his successor, Newton has the talent to stake a claim to the job. Stating such isn't conjecture, and while Newton has plenty to learn, an air of expectation seems to follow him. "It's a lot more pressure, but at the same time you can't let the pressure take control of you," Newton said. "You've just got to take it one day at a time. "You've just got to come out and do you. You've got to work hard and everything will fall into place." If Texans fans weren't transfixed on the performances of the wide receivers expected to complement the talents of veterans Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, they drew a bead on the right side of the offensive line, where Butler and Newton are competing alongside guards Antoine Caldwell and Brandon Brooks, a rookie out of Miami (OH). Whatever Newton offered last year was gravy, a little something extra along the path of his development as a professional. The stakes are much higher in the present, with Newton subject to a fine-toothed comb. "I thought Newton was a little inconsistent but continues to flash," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "It's going to be a good battle. "We played those guys probably more than any of our older players (Saturday) night and that will be on a continuous basis over the next couple weeks. I think they kind of played the way I expected them to play." Film study revealed signs of progress. Newton noticed that his run blocking had improved and recognized a better fit within the scheme. Before he exits the facility he scribbles down nuances he desires to strengthen, then spends his nights visualizing growth in those areas. It's a process, but one less arduous that some might anticipate. At the foundation of all Newton longs to become is a commitment to his craft, a determination to blend his natural gifts with what he gleans from practice reps. Newton continues to make headway at a reasonable pace. "It's not really a big process," Newton said. "You've just got to come out every day and work hard. The little things count: working on your run game, working on your pass game, footwork, hands you just have to put everything together every day and just come out and work hard." Follow me on Twitter at moisekapenda
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