There are many question marks when it comes to the Houston Texans 2016 season. How will Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller perform? Will the rookie class come in and make an early impact? Which defensive lineman will step up and take some pressure off of Watt? Can the secondary be more consistent?
These are all valid questions, but perhaps one of the most important is that of how the offensive line will come together. The o-line struggled early on in 2015 as they battled injuries and positional shuffling. They managed to get back on track in the second half of the season, but Houston cannot afford a slow start this season.
Last season saw Brandon Brooks, Duane Brown, Derek Newton, and Xavier Su’a-filo all miss time with injuries. Right tackle Newton was asked to play left guard on a couple of occasions and reserves Oday Aboushi, Chris Clark, Jeff Adams, and Kendall Lamm all saw playing time.
The one constant was center Ben Jones. Jones had some nagging injuries, but never missed any time. The line finally came together on the Monday night game against Cincinnati in week 10. On that night, Houston was able to start the guys that they had intended to at the beginning of the year: Duane Brown (LT), Xavier Su’a-filo (LG), Ben Jones (C), Brandon Brooks (RG), and Derek Newton (RT).
The line performed well that night, and that would continue as they remained relatively healthy the rest of the season. However, Duane Brown suffered a quad injury in week 17, which still has him on the sidelines. Also, Jones and Brooks left in free agency. The line in 2016 will look much different.
Houston signed Jeff Allen, a guard from Kansas City. Allen will presumably fill the void at right guard left by Brandon Brooks. They also signed Tony Bergstrom from Oakland. Bergstrom has experience at both guard and center. The Texans then drafted Notre Dame center Nick Martin in the second round. It’s likely that Martin will be the starting center in week one.
Duane Brown has yet to get back on the field, after having surgery to repair his damaged quad. He will likely be brought back very slowly, which leaves a question mark as to when he will be back to full speed. Should Brown miss time, Chris Clark will probably fill in for him, just as he did when Brown went down last season.
At the other tackle position, Derek Newton is set to be the starter. Newton has been a little bit inconsistent, but he is a more than capable right tackle. Jeff Allen and Xavier Su’a-filo will be the starting guards. Allen was very solid with the Chiefs, so there’s little need for concern. Su’a-filo, on the other hand, has battled injuries and inconsistent play. He truly needs to have a strong training camp.
It certainly seems that Nick Martin will be the starting center. If Martin is slow to develop, then we can assume Tony Bergstrom will be the man. That leaves Clark (T), Aboushi (T), Adams (T), and Lamm as primary backups.
Other offensive linemen on the current roster are: Greg Mancz (C), Karim Barton (G), Dalton Freeman (C), Andrew McDonald (T), Chad Slade (G), and Arturo Uzdavinis (T).
Some of these guys will not be on the final 53, but the Texans know better than to not have a sufficient group of backups. The Texans line needs to be very good this year from the get go. They need to protect Brock Osweiler and they need to open up holes for Miller and the other backs.
We can only hope that Brown will be ready to go, and the rest of the line can gel and get through training camp in good health. This group will be extremely important to the Texans success, or lack thereof, in 2016.
follow me at @UltTexansTalk
Header image based on “Duane Brown” by Karen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)