The biggest need for improvement this offseason for the Houston Texans is the offensive line. Has the unit improved as the calendar hits mid-June?
Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien knows his offensive line needs to be improved overall as a complete unit in 2019, and to do so that improvement needs to have already started.
If there is another performance that mirrors last season by the offensive line, the team results won’t be great, and that will make for a poor situation in Houston, most likely leading to many changes along the way.
Remember last season — including the playoffs — the Texans offensive line were charged with allowing 65 tackles, and more so, the unit hasn’t blocked for a 1,000 yard rusher for the past two seasons. Some of that is the fault of the o-line, and some of it isn’t, but the front line play of the Texans offense needs to be better than it has been as of late.
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In trying to improve an offensive line suitable for being at the pro level, the Texans drafted two offensive linemen — Tytus Howard and Max Scharping — in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft this past April. Though it will take them some time to hone their craft at the level needed for success in the NFL, others on the roster need to improve their play too.
Last season Seantrel Henderson was on the injured reserve list with a season-ending injury, but as of mid-June he’s listed at starting right tackle for the Texans. Having Henderson in the lineup should make a difference, but coming off an injury always has questions.
The rest of the Texans’ starting offensive line consists of the following players according to OurLads.com: Julie’n Davenport (left tackle), Senio Kelemete (left guard), Nick Martin (center) and Zach Fulton (right guard).
Texans head coach O’Brien spoke about the offensive line last week following an offseason camp practice as he was asked “how the offensive line was coming along,” with transcripts provided by HoustonTexans.com, stating they’ve yet to put pads on yet this summer:
"“They’ve improved in their knowledge, they’ve improved in their technique. It’s a very good group of guys, they work hard, they’re in early, they stay late, they do a lot of things together off the field. I think Nick Martin does a great job leading that group. I think he’s a great leader. I think they’ve improved. Again, when we go to full pads let’s see how that improvement takes shape with full pads on.”"
The comments made by O’Brien are true in that the Texans don’t know how they’ve improved until the put pads on, but there will be lots of improvement needed for it to really show on the field.
In 2018, Martin was graded as the 21st best center in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, tied with Trey Hopkins of the Cincinnati Bengals. Martin had an overall grade of 59.3 with a pass blocking grade of 79.1, and a run blocking grade at 48.9, playing in a total of 1,164 snaps.
Martin is entering his third season with the Texans after being drafted in the second round by the franchise to be the leader of the offensive line from the center position. Martin has only missed two games in his short career, but last season played in all 16 games during the regular season, plus played in the playoff game too.
Davenport allowed the most sacks last season with 12, along with 69 pressures and 14 QB hits. Davenport will also need to cut penalties down this upcoming season, as he was the leader on the team with 16.
Also according to Pro Football Focus, as a unit last season the Texans were 20th in pass blocking with a grade of 71.3, and had a team run blocking grade of 43.2, which was last in the league.
Both numbers aren’t great by any means, but the run blocking grade has to get better. Being worst in the league is unacceptable on many fronts when it comes to an offense that has the capabilities to be special if all cylinders are working correctly.
Once training camp rolls around all of us will be able to see exactly what improvements have been made. As of mid-June it is tough to be sold on the comments made by O’Brien about the offensive line based on the face of how poorly they played as a unit last season.
It is going to take a lot more execution in 2019 to sure up and to show a clear improvement from last season That will need to happen if the Texans want to return to the playoffs a second straight season. The AFC South will be tougher than it was a year ago, and the offensive line must be ready, or it will be a shorter, and less successful season than it was in ’18.
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