MIAMI at HOUSTON, 1 p.m., CBS

Capers returns to Houston


Published: Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
HOUSTON - Dom Capers was fired by the Houston Texans in January after the worst season in his head coaching career. Today, he returns as an assistant with Miami to try and help the Dolphins keep the ever-struggling Texans winless.
Because Dolphins coach Nick Saban has made media access to assistants almost nonexistent, thoughts about what this game means to Capers were left to those permitted to address the subject.
"It's always disappointing to anyone who doesn't succeed at whatever they work hard to try to do," Saban said of Capers. "I would feel no different than that. But I think he's got too much class to really hold any grudges or be negative about it. I think he's just positive about the opportunity he had."
Good feelings aside, Capers would love to beat the team that fired him, right?
"I'm sure it means a little something for him, but I'm sure he's not going to make too much out of it either and just treat it as one game," Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas said. "I know he was there since the start. It's probably something that deep inside he wants to win it."
Texans coach Gary Kubiak had only good things to say about the man whose job he took.
"He knows these players better than anybody," Kubiak said. "On top of that he's a great football coach, he's always given us fits playing against him. But you know the Miami Dolphins have great defense for many, many years. And add his expertise to that and that makes it even tougher."
Capers took over in Miami for current Texans defensive coordinator Richard Smith. While the Dolphins' defense remains solid, allowing just 276 yards per game, Smith hasn't brought success to the Texans' defense. Houston is allowing an NFL-worst 484 yards a game.
"I think if there's patience there that this group will turn into a really good unit," Saban said of Houston's defense. "They're very capable of playing well."
No. 1 pick Mario Williams, a defensive end, hasn't made much of an impact and Kubiak publicly criticized him for the first time this week, saying he was "disappointed" in his play.
"I feel like it was well deserved," Williams said of the criticism. "Obviously the production has not been where everybody anticipated, not just you guys, but myself. I have to ... be the leader on the field. I realize that, and I just have to go out and get better every day and help the team out."
Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown, who has 190 yards rushing and two scores, isn't that curious to get a look at Williams.
"Not really. I've watched a little bit on him on film," Brown said. "He's a big guy, athletic. His size is one of his advantages, but I think we're going to try to take advantage. He is a rookie."
Miami has had its share of trials this year, but is trying to build momentum after picking up its first win last week, 13-10 over Tennessee.
Daunte Culpepper has just one touchdown pass, three interceptions and has been sacked 16 times, numbers that have raised questions about his health in the wake of his comeback from last year's reconstructive knee surgery.
"It's always going to be a work in progress," Culpepper said. "I've always said that. Coming off an injury like this, I knew things would be a little bit different early."
Saban remains confident in his quarterback despite the struggles.
"He thinks he's healthy enough," Saban said. "We think he's healthy enough. If we don't think he's healthy enough we'll play somebody else. It's simple."
While Culpepper is trying to get back to his old self, Houston's David Carr is looking to become the quarterback Houston projected when he was taken first in the 2002 draft.
Though the Texans have yet to establish a running game without Domanick Davis, Carr is better protected and has six touchdowns with one interception. His 113.6 passer rating leads the league.
But he remains worried Houston can't be effective if the running game doesn't improve, despite the strong play of receivers Andre Johnson, who is third in the NFL in yards receiving with 309, and Eric Moulds.
"Me and Andre and Eric and all those guys, we're going to give our best effort outside," Carr said. "We're going to be able to make plays. It's just a matter of how many are we going to be able to make if we can't get a running game established? That's why you have to try and go in and do it."
The Texans plan to stay with Ron Dayne, who has 95 yards in two games, as their starter. He got his first start in almost two years last week against Washington.

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