With our final breakdown for the offense, we visit the Texans offensive line. In 2009, the Texans played very well in pass protection, but followed that up with a very poor performance in the running game. In response to this, the Texans went out and signed interior lineman Wade Smith, the former Kansas City Chief. The Texans also drafted Shelley Smith in the 6th round of this year’s draft, and will also let other offensive linemen on the roster compete for a starting role on the team next season. Here are the breakdowns for the Texans offensive line from all three of the Toro Times writers.
Anthony North –
After a solid season together in 2008 where all five starters started all 16 games, it was expected that the group would take a step forward in 2010. In a way, they did. But only in pass protection. After finishing 13th in total rushing in 2008, the Texans failed to produce much of a running game in 2009, finishing 30th. But in 2009, the Texans offensive line helped to keep up QB Matt Schaub in passing situations better than in any season in franchise history. For once, we can say that the Texans line is good a pass protection, but they’ll need to improve on run blocking if they want to be successful.
Starting at left tackle, Duane Brown is will be entering his 3rd season with the Texans. Brown, a 1st round pick in 2008, has shown that he can be a decent run blocker. But if there’s anything to be concerned about, it’s his pass blocking. He gave up 7 sacks last season, and many more hurries that led to interceptions being thown by Schaub. With the great pass rushing teams in the division and against the ones they’ll also have to face this season, Brown will need to improve significantly in his pass protection if he want’s to give his quarterback a chance.
After guard Chester Pitts, and original Texans, was injured for the season, Kasey Studdard stepped in at the left guard spot. He wasn’t anything special, but he held his spot well in the absence of the most consistent starter the Texans have ever had. He is surly being looked at as someone to possibly replace with an upgrade next offseason, but we’ll have to see how he progresses.
Now in the middle, center Chris Myers has had the position locked down the past couple seasons after replacing Steve McKinney and Mike Flanagan. Myers, who plays at a very light 295 pounds, has shown that he can block well against mid sized defenders. But when it comes to blocking large nose tackles, mainly in the 3-4, Myers is thrown around like a rag doll. This was clearly shown last season against the Jets when Myers was karate chopped to the ground by NT Chris Jenkins. Myers will either need to improve or get more help from the other guard spots when playing against the defenses the Texans will face this season.
Right behind Myers is newly signed Wade Smith, the former Kansas City Chief lineman who joined the Texans this offseason. Smith, typically a hybrid center and guard, will likely be competing with Myers for the starting center role in training camp. Because he played for the Chiefs, he’s not well known as an offensive lineman in the league, so it’s hard to place many expectations on him. With the contract that he signed, fans like to think that he’ll end up starting somewhere, and hopefully he’ll be able to improve the Texans offensive line this season.
Moving further to the right, we come to second year guard Antoine Caldwell. Seeing progressively increasing action action in 2009, the 2008 3rd round pick will likely be the starter at right guard going into the season. At 6’3″ 310 pounds, Caldwell brings a bit more size to what is considered to be a relatively small line for the Texans. One of Caldwell’s better attributes is being able to handle all kinds of interior linemen, which certainly should help the Texans improve against 3-4 defenses. However, he’ll need to improve on combo blocks, something which is necessary in the Texans zone blocking scheme.
Then, we reach the end of the line, coming to right tackle Eric Winston. Dubbed by fans as “The Caveman”, Winston has been one of the better tackles in the NFL since entering the league. He plays well in pass protection, even though his place is typically in run blocking. He is probably the best offensive lineman on the Texans roster, and he has shown that by consistently protecting the quarterback and opening lanes for the running back. Winston should retain his role as the starting right tackle on the Texans for years to come.
Also on the roster is Mike Brisiel, who was the starter at right guard before going down with an injury last season. There’s a good chance that Briesel will make the team as a backup, seeing how he was a starter and has played well in the past. There’s also Rashad Butler, who works well as a decent backup swing tackle. Chris White, a guard entering his firth season with the team, started 8 games last season on the right side after Mike Brisiel was placed in injured reserve. Finally, rookie 6th round pick Shelley Smith should be competing for a backup role at guard for the Texans, and could end up playing behind Kasey Studdard. Anyone else currently on the roster will likely be cut before the start of the regular season.
Cameron Butler –
The Texans offensive line heading into the 2010 NFL Season is the most depth the they have ever had at any position up front. That’s not to say that the skill level is necessarily good either. The tackle positions seem to be a lock on both sides, while the interior is just a huge puzzle. So we will start from the outside going in.
Duane Brown was drafted in the 2008 NFL Draft with the 26th overall pick. He hasn’t lived up to all of his expectations, but has started all of his 32 games with the Texans so far. He will need to keep the blindside clear for Matt Schaub this year, especially since he will be facing some of the premier pass rushing ends and backers.
Eric Winston, like Duane Brown, was also drafted by the Texans, but with the 66th pick in 2006 out of Miami. It took him a while to get into starting form, starting 7 games his rookie season, then started all 16 games in 2007. He has been a solid right tackle for Houston and will more than likely continue to be.
Wade Smith, the newest edition to the Texans this off-season, was acquired via free agency. He is just one of the puzzle pieces having to be put together right now. He is getting paid starting money, but right now is not projected to be a starter. That could very well change during training camp. There is some doubt though as to what role he will play.
Chris Myers is the most likely candidate to start at center. He is a little undersized, but that is okay with the Texans blocking scheme. Besides, he came from the Denver Broncos, so he knows the blocking scheme well by now. He was moved to center by Denver when Tom Nalen went down with an injury and also started a season at guard.
Antoine Caldwell was drafted in 2009 to add some depth and bulk to the offensive line. In his rookie season, he played in 11 games whilst starting 3 to fill in for injury. He will have to become a lot more disciplined and learn the blocking scheme more, but if he can do those two things, I see him starting for the Texans down the road.
Right now, the offensive line is way too crowded to go into much depth about on the bubble starters or back-ups. There is plenty to choose from though. At tackle the Texans have Rashad Butler, Adam Stenavich, Steve Maneri, and Cole Pemberton. While at Guard and Center they have Mike Brisiel, Chris White Shelly Smith, and Brett Helms.
The most impacting loss to the Texans this season was Chester Pitts, who before he went down with injury in week 2, started every game for the Texans in franchise history. He leaves Kris Brown as the only original Texan remaining. It is not for sure yet if he is going to sign with another team. If injuries hamper the Texans line-up this season, he might end up making a move back to the team. That would be something to keep your eye on.