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It's been too long since I visited with Eric Winston, and thanks to the Texans PR department I had a good conversation with the right tackle this afternoon.
We talked a bit about his matchup Sunday against the Titans, when Jevon Kearse will line up across from him.
In his first season back with Tennessee, Kearse hasn't been "The Freak" but he has been steady -- he has 42 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 15 quarterback pressures and six tackles for a loss. He's started all 13 games and has not dealt with any injury issues, when a lot of his critics expected he'd have durability issues.
"I've got a good test this week, Kearse is playing probably as good as he's played in his career," Winston said. "It's going to be a lot to handle, but I am excited about it. It's a good challenge for me and I need to prove [I'm worth] my paycheck."
Winston said Kearse looks much like he did when the Texans visited the Titans back in Week 3.
"Not really different, which is surprising," he said. "I wouldn't say he's an older guy, but a guy that's had some injuries and stuff, sometimes they start wearing down at the end of the season. But he doesn't seem like that, he seems like he's coming off the ball just as hard, he's playing just as fast, he's running around doing the things I think everyone expects Jevon Kearse to do.
"He's a really a really tough load to handle for a right tackle because they are not used to seeing a guy like that on their side. I mean he's usually a guy who's over the left tackle. I think that gives Tennessee a big edge having a guy like that over the right tackle and having [Kyle] Vanden Bosch over on the left. It's a two-sided monster with those guys like that."
Vanden Bosch didn't practice Wednesday with a recurring groin injury, and could be rested Sunday. If he is, Dave Ball and Jacob Ford would team up to replace him and Kearse would stay put.
Winston, who got a long-term deal earlier this season, said he feels like he's really gotten better under the tutelage of Alex Gibbs, who coordinates the run game, and offensive line coach John Benton.
"Coming into the season I would have definitely tell you I was a better pass blocker," Winston said. "Being a left tackle in college and coming over, I just think that is more of the mindset. I think coach Gibbs and coach Benton have really done an awesome job with me this year, getting me to be a better finisher and to open up more holes. I think it's really opened my game up and I think I am a lot better tackle for it."
Look for much more from Winston on the state of the Texans and how much of a measuring stick Sunday's game is in my column that will be posted Thursday on the AFC South Blog.