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Thursday, August 7, 2008
Behind the scenes, Benton a key figure for Texans

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

HOUSTON -- There is a lot of talk about Alex Gibbs in Houston, and around the league. The two years before that, Mike Sherman had a lot of notoriety as a Texans assistant.

But under both, John Benton's been doing a lot of good work as offensive line coach.

While the national consciousness has trouble forgetting the pictures of David Carr getting dragged down again and again, the Texans did just fine in the sack department last year, allowing just 22. Those amounted to four percent of the team's plays, tied for the seventh-best rate in the league.

Sherman was assistant head coach and, last year, offensive coordinator. Insiders say he wasn't involved much in 2007 with coaching the offensive line. Now Gibbs is hands-on with the line, but his focus is a zone-blocking run game scheme and the cut blocks that make it work.

Benton's popularity extends well beyond the line.

"John Benton is phenomenal," backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels said. "I've learned a lot from his as far as X's and O's and technique of how to pass protect. I think the way we do it, Gibbs is definitely in charge of the running game, and John's got such a great feel for the passing game and how to pick up blitzes.

"We're very, very fundamentally sound. I think that shows with how we've given up fewer and fewer sacks every year. I think I only got sacked six times in about 240 attempts last year. They are doing a better and better job every year."

Coach Gary Kubiak said the opportunities to have veteran coaches like Sherman, now coach at Texas A&M, and Gibbs on his staff were too good to pass up, and in no way suggested any lack of faith in Benton.

"He's a hell of a coach," Kubiak said. "He's done a great job since he's been here. I just felt like it was good to give him an opportunity to work with Alex, one of the all-time greats in the league.

"Working through Sherm and the Rams [in 2004-05] and the places he's been, to me, they'll be talking about John someday like they talk about Alex. To me, good coaches don't have big egos. John doesn't have a big ego. He just wants to learn from everybody and he does a great job."

Benton is on board with that thinking.

"That's fine, all that stuff takes care of itself," he said. "I consider myself incredibly fortunate to get the knowledge off those two guys. Not a lot of people get that opportunity. I've got no problems. If we're successful, there will be enough to go around for everybody."