Houston Texans defensive line remains intriguing despite departures

Houston Texans, J.J. Watt (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Houston Texans, J.J. Watt (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

The Houston Texans have a solid defensive line group for the 2020 season after a busy offseason.

The Houston Texans have an interesting group of defensive linemen heading into this upcoming season after having several changes to their roster throughout this offseason. It was reported a few weeks ago that the Texans are not signing defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan after the very own player revealed on his Instagram account that he would no longer be joining Houston.

Jernigan was expected to compete for a starting spot on the defensive line, but there were concerns about his future with the team after not being announced on the list of players the Texans added in the offseason. Head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien was excited about Jernigan’s addition before the draft, but it seems a lot changed after the draft.

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Both sides mutually decided to move on after reportedly agreeing to a one year deal worth $3.75 million. Jernigan could’ve been a low-risk high ceiling signing but the defensive end position is a solid group the Texans have for next season. J.J. Watt, Charles Omenihu, Angelo Blackson, and Carlos Watkins are four solid options to have as 3-4 defensive ends.

This is not including Houston’s 2020 second-round pick from TCU defensive lineman, Ross Blacklock. The Texans invested the 40th pick of the draft to select a player like Blacklock that is better suited to lining up as an interior pass rusher for Houston.

Blacklock is a little light to play nose tackle for the Texans weighing around 290 pounds, but he could see a lot of playing time at defensive end in his rookie season. With Jernigan expected to come in on a short deal, it made sense for those snaps to go to players with higher upside and under contract beyond this season.

Blacklock and Omenihu are the two young intriguing players to keep an eye on as they hold the potential to help Watt in pressuring opposing quarterbacks moving forward. Blackson and Watkins are the veteran defensive ends on the roster that are relied on more to hold their blocks to stop the run.

On the other hand, Ira Savage-Lewis is another under the radar option for the Texans after signing as an undrafted free agent from Baylor in 2019. Savage-Lewis was waived with an injury settlement but was reverted to the IR after he went unclaimed. He is fighting for a spot on this team and has an outside chance as he enters his second year with the organization.

Brandon Dunn, Eddie Vanderdoes  Auzoyah Alufohai, are the three current nose tackles on the roster. Dunn is the projected starter after D.J. Reader signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency. The Texans were confident enough in giving Dunn a three-year deal $12 million after he rose through the ranks and proved to be an underrated contributor behind Reader.

Vanderdoes is the early favorite to back up Dunn after spending the latter portion of the season on the active roster since being promoted from Houston’s practice squad. Vanderdoes remains an intriguing player for the Texans after he was drafted in the third round in 2017 by the Oakland Raiders. Health has impeded him from seeing the field in 2018, but he could very well see more playing time in 2020 after being a reserve last season.

Rookie undrafted signee, Alufohai, has a shot to make noise if there is a training camp and preseason this year. The Houston native chose the Texans over other opportunities after the draft concluded, and there exists a path for him to compete for a roster spot.

He has the tools and raw talent the Texans covet, and they could continue to develop him at the next level on the practice squad at the very least. Nose tackle is a position on the depth chart that remains up for grabs after Dunn as the starter.

However, the Texans have an interesting talented group coming in with Blackson being drafted in early in the second round. Having Omenihu entering his second year is also a storyline to keep an eye on after having three sacks and two forced fumbles in his rookie season. Watt being fully healthy is also a great sign for the Texans and the defense moving forward.

Next. Breaking down Texans' cornerback competition. dark

Texans have a solid group set in place at the defensive line to bounce back and make their presence felt with Anthony Weaver as the new coordinator after a disappointing 2019 season that was plagued with injuries on the defensive side of the football.