Houston's Willie Jefferson raw, improving

The best thing about outside linebacker Willie Jefferson right now is his ceiling.

It's high.

This is only the third season Jefferson has played defense. He switched from receiver after transferring to Stephen F. Austin. Though he made an impact as a defensive end there, he's still learning a lot.

"At the start of minicamp I was like a little fish," Jefferson said. "Right now I'm just swimming in the pool with sharks. Just trying to learn every day. Trying to learn something new. Sitting down with some of the vets, learning what they do to get through practice, get through games."

On Sunday against the Saints, Jefferson seemed constantly in New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees' face. He nearly took Brees down in the end zone once.

Jefferson, an undrafted rookie, played with the starters because of an injury to outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus. Jefferson is still working on his run-stopping, but his pass-rush ability was clear all summer and it continues to improve.

"I just feel like athletes make plays," Jefferson said. "Be out there on the island with a person that's bigger than me and slower than me, I just gotta have the chance to make a play. When I have the chance to make a play, I'm going to make one."

It has seemed easy for Jefferson, but it hasn't been.

"I had a time where it was just everything was just going over my head and I was like 'I need help,' Jefferson said. "Some of the best took care of me. Talk about I just need to calm down, take it one step at a time, learn one step at a time."

His development, which quickly rose past the level of two draft picks at his position, is a testament to staying healthy and making the most of the chances before him.