Houston Texans: Breaking down offensive tackle competition

Houston Texans, Laremy Tunsil (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Houston Texans, Laremy Tunsil (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

The Houston Texans have a solid group of offensive tackles heading into this upcoming season.

The Houston Texans are entering their second season with a solid starting duo with Laremy Tunsil at left tackle and Tytus Howard at right tackle. There exists a lot of optimism for the Tunsil and Howard tandem to continue where they left off after playing eight games together last season.

The Texans built their tackle position on the fly after acquiring Tunsil a week before the start of the 2019 regular season, but he quickly stabilized the left tackle position and protected Deshaun Watson’s blindside. Tunsil played at a high level despite dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries through his first season in Houston. He only allowed three sacks through regular-season action. Tunsil is expected to be good to go by the time training camp rolls around despite undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.

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Meanwhile, Howard was more than impressive in his first year by showing he could make an immediate impact as a rookie. Howard started as the left guard in Week 2 before moving outside to start at right tackle the following week against the Los Angeles Chargers.

He didn’t look like a fish out of water as a rookie and fared rather well against some of the better pass rushers in the league. A knee injury he suffered against the Kansas City Chiefs slowed his momentum after he was shut down for the season a few weeks later, but he showed a lot of promise moving forward to be the Texans starting right tackle for the foreseeable future. Howard only allowed two sacks in the games he was active.

Howard and Tunsil are locked in as the starters at the tackle position, but that didn’t stop Houston from adding talent to improve their depth heading into this season. Texans decided to add some competition to their position group after choosing not to bring back Chris Clark.

Houston traded up in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft to select offensive tackle, Charlie Heck, from the North Carolina Tar Heel football program. Heck offers the Texans a lot of size and athleticism at 6’8, and he is going to ease his way into the league behind Howard and Tunsil.

It will likely come down to Roderick Johnson and Heck for who wins the competition as the swing tackle, but both are the favorites to back up the starters. Texans also have Kyle Murphy, Elijah Nkansah, Rick Leonard, and David Steinmetz in the mix fighting for the final spot that Johnson is the favorite to keep. However, Johnson is a player the Texans have spent time developing since the Cleveland Browns waived him.

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Johnson will have to prove it on the field in order for him to earn a spot on the final roster, but his time on the first team is a clear advantage over any of the other players competing for his spot.