Bulked-up Adibi fighting for third linebacker spot

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Weakside linebacker might be the most intriguing Houston Texans' training camp position battle.

Second-year man Xavier Adibi, recovering Zach Diles and newcomer Cato June are expected to slug it out for the third starting spot alongside middle man DeMeco Ryans and rookie strongside linebacker Brian Cushing.

"With Adibi and Zach and Cato, we're as strong at that position as we've been since I've been here," coach Gary Kubiak said.

"That position group will have a heck of a battle this training camp," GM Rick Smith said. "That's one I'm looking forward to watching."

Getting more rugged and durable at linebacker was one of the team's offseason priorities.

Adibi was slow to get involved last season and played in just seven games. Diles broke his left tibia in a practice halfway through the season and was lost for the year. Kevin Bentley, Morlon Greenwood and Chaun Thompson filled in. Greenwood's gone now.

At 6-foot-2 and 243 pounds, Cushing was drafted 15th overall to help beef up the Texans at linebacker. He's a versatile player who should be able to rush and cover.

When I heard about Adibi bulking up -- he said he's gone from 220 to 240 -- I recalled comments Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio made about steady weight gain for young players. Del Rio said when he was an assistant at Baltimore, the plan was for Ray Lewis to gain five pounds a year.

Maybe Adibi will be good to go with a 20-pound leap. Everyone in Houston said it's not a concern. But maybe it will be something we have to monitor.

"I was making sure I didn't put on too much, I didn't want to get to the 245, 250 range," Adibi said. "This is weight that I need just to get through the regular season playing 17 weeks of the NFL. That's one of my goals, make it through the season 100 percent, not miss any games.

"This is what I had to do and I feel good. I feel real good."

Two things that should benefit all the linebackers: A healthy Amobi Okoye at defensive tackle and the addition of veteran lineman Antonio Smith, who will start at end but could kick inside in certain situations.

"Sometimes a linebacker is only as good as his D tackles," Adibi said. "They're keeping blocks off you, they are shooting upfield, they are penetrating, they are causing havoc and that just lets the linebackers roam and make plays."