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'Hard Knocks' star Charles James thankful for big break

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The two-year journey of Charles James from living out of motel on a bare-bones budget so not to burden his mother, to practice squad member, to "Hard Knocks" star, to being cut, to now starting is quite a whirlwind. 

"I have motivation from that," James said of his struggles, via the team's official website. "The intensity you see me play with, the fire that you see me play with, I think about some of those reasons when I play."

After watching James on HBO's "Hard Knocks" it was a semi-surprise to see the undrafted cornerback cut in September. He was scooped up by the Baltimore Ravens, placed on the practice squad and briefly on the 53-man roster before again being cut.

James returned to the Texans two days later.

Last week he started his first career game for an injured Kareem Jackson.

"I was talking to my mom and my stepdad the other day," James said. "I like to reflect. For me, I look at things on a yearly basis and to see where I was a year ago to where I am now, man it's a blessing."

In the past two weeks, James played 107 of a possible 139 snaps. Since returning to Houston in Week 7, James ranks as the No. 21 corner by Pro Football Focus over that span.

With Johnathan Joseph enjoying another great season -- highlighted by shutting down A.J. Green two weeks ago -- and rookie Kevin Johnson becoming a playmaker, the Texans' corner depth is a big part of their coalescing dominant defense.

Houston has allowed less than 275 total yards of offense with 3-plus sacks and 2-plus takeaways in each of the past three games. The Texans are also allowing 26.4 conversion rate on third down this season, tops in the NFL.

J.J. Watt rightfully gets all the headlines and commercials, but players like James contributing highlight a defense turning a corner from a disastrous stretch earlier in the season.

With the AFC South up for grabs, the Texans' defense now needs to slow down Drew Brees and the explosive Saints offense on Sunday.

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