The Texans' defense is getting reinforcements.
One week after playing without starting safety Justin Reid, starting cornerback Terrance Mitchell and linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, all three are practicing.
Mitchell returned to practice Thursday after dealing with a concussion and an illness. He remains in concussion protocol under NFL guidelines, but can be cleared if he's able to practice for two consecutive days without symptoms.
Mitchell participated on a limited basis.
Reid and Grugier-Hill have practiced the past two days after missing a 24-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers due to knee injuries.
Reid was limited and Grugier-Hill participated fully.
All three players are trending positively, and Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith expressed optimism that they will be back for a Sunday road game against the Buffalo Bills.
“We’re hoping,” Smith said. “Had a little bit of time, they’re getting better. So, we’re different without them. Those are three good football players that we need. They’ll help us. We have a whole lot more success with them out there, but they’re coming along and hopefully that’ll be the case.”
Meanwhile, wide receiver Danny Amendola (hamstring), defensive tackle Ross Blacklock (illness), running back Scottie Phillips (illness), linebacker Garret Wallow (illness) didn't practice along with quarterback Deshaun Watson (non-injury reasons). Center Justin Britt (hamstring) was upgraded to full participation after being limited Wednesday.
Mitchell got hurt against the Cleveland Browns.
Signed to a two-year, $7.5 million contract, Mitchell started every game last season for Browns team that made the playoffs.
Grugier-Hill has 11 tackles, three for losses and one sack.
Reid has two interceptions and one forced fumble.
“Justin’s one of our best defensive players, period,” Smith said. “His ball skills, just having him back in the secondary, of course, helps everything. Missing him took a big chunk out.
The Texans need Mitchell to solidify their secondary after trading their top corner, Bradley Roby, to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for a 2022 third-round draft pick and a conditional 2023 sixth-round draft pick while paying $7 million of his salary. Mitchell and Vernon Hargreaves will be the Texans' starting outside corners with Desmond King operating as the primary nickel.
A year ago, Mitchell had 65 tackles, two for losses, three forced fumbles and 13 passes defensed.
The Sacramento, Calif., native, a part of the Browns’ resurrection, had a 77.2 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus and a 66.7 pass coverage grade last season.
“I would say I gained some experience throughout those years, so I would say I'm a better player for sure,” Mitchell said earlier this season. “Oh man, it’s a beautiful thing. I’ve got some great coaches, great teammates. It’s a fresh start.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years and has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128