The Houston Texans had a 2014 season filled with highs and lows, and the play of their offensive line was no different. This included many weeks of large amounts of pressure on the quarterback, as well as a late-season game against the Baltimore Ravens in which the Texans did not give up a single sack.
If Houston is going to have future success however, they are going to need more consistent play from the offensive line. This is an issue that can most directly be addressed in the upcoming NFL Draft.
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With the 16th overall pick in the draft, the Texans have a decent chance at grabbing a talented player in the first round. And one who can jump right in and play immediately.
The question they have to ask themselves is if they believe the offensive line, and in particular their current offensive tackles, are worth investing in for long term.
Right tackle Derek Newton seemed to have a much better than expected season in 2014. Newton should be a top priority for Houston to re-sign this offseason as he’s currently a free agent. If the Texans can sign him to a long-term deal, the 27-year old is primed to be a solid starting tackle in Houston for many years to come.
Left tackle Duane Brown, on the other hand, seemed to take a step back last season. And had quite a disappointing season despite being named to his third Pro Bowl.
Brown may not have surrendered large amounts of sacks (2), but he allowed quite a bit of pressure on the quarterback (9 quarterback hits, 22 hurries according to Pro Football Focus). And he hurt his team several times with key penalties, recording seven in total.
Center Chris Myers also failed to live up to expectations this season. Both Brown and Myers need to show some improvement if the Texans are going to rely on him in the future. They have been stars in the league, but they simply must live up to their potential to avoid being replaced by younger talent.
That being said, the struggles on the offensive line may not warrant using a first round pick on a player at an already skilled position. With so many teams needing O-Line help, it seems likely that the top linemen will be off the board by the time the Texans are on the clock. It may make more sense to wait until a bit later in the draft and take a player who can be a solid backup and spend some time on the bench improving.
If Brandon Scherff from Iowa, Andrus Peat from Stanford, Ereck Flowers from Miami, or T.J. Clemmings are still available at No. 16 when the Texans pick, these players may be talented enough to be worth a first round selection. But there is a steep drop off in talent after this, and there may not be another lineman with good value available for quite some time in the draft.
Houston should take a page from the playbook of the Dallas Cowboys and build their team around a strong solid offensive line. With one of the best running backs in the league in Arian Foster, a young star in DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver, and a stout defense boasting arguably the league’s most talented player in defensive tackle J.J. Watt, the Texans have many of the pieces needed to make a run at the playoffs.
The big question for Houston is who their starting quarterback will be. But this will hardly matter if that player is always on his back. Building a strong and deep offensive line should be the first priority of every team, the Texans in particular.
There are few other glaring holes in Houston’s roster, so their first round pick is somewhat up in the air. But they certainly need to shore up their offensive line at some point in the draft.
Head coach Bill O’Brien knows that the offensive line needs help, shown by his recent firing of O-line coach Paul Dunn, and hiring of Mike Devlin to the same position. It remains to be seen if Devlin will be successful in coaching the current roster to its full potential or will instead turn to new players in an attempt to bring his team more success.
We will see what direction the Texans decide to go in their top draft choice on April 30th. Until then, we will continue to speculate and analyze their options, so as to form our best-guess predictions for what they will do. Join the conversation in the comments and tell us what you think the best move for Houston will be.