Are the Houston Texans better than 16th on the defensive line?

Charles Omenihu #94 of the Houston Texans (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Charles Omenihu #94 of the Houston Texans (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Pro Football Focus ranked the Houston Texans defensive line 16th overall entering the 2020 training camp and regular season.

Many are ranking the Houston Texans as an average team or with low rankings entering the 2020 NFL training camps and regular season, as the reigning back-to-back Texans don’t seem to be the darlings of anyone as the offseason continues.

That is the case with the Pro Football Focus list when ranking the defensive lines of the NFL, where the Houston Texans news was they are ranked 16th overall, so once again, they are being considered average. Is that the correct ranking for this unit entering the 2020 training camp portion of the offseason schedule?

The mainstay of the defensive line is J.J. Watt, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, who is entering his 10th season in the league but is also coming off a pectoral injury that cost him eight regular-season games, too. Watt has missed many games in three of the past four seasons, but when he’s healthy and on the field, few are better than him when he’s playing at a high level.

Granted, the Houston Texans lost D.J. Reader to free agency, so seeing if the Texans made the correct move there by choosing not to re-sign the defensive tackle will be interesting, but the Texans did go to the draft in the second round to select his replacement, Ross Blacklock.

Back to the PFF ranking, here is what they said about Watt being the leader of the defensive line of the Houston Texans:

"“Watt getting back to his best play would be a huge boost for this team, and in 2019 he threatened to do exactly that before a pectoral injury sidelined him for half of the regular season.”"

The article went on to mention the likes of Whitney Mercilus, and rookies Blacklock and Jonathan Greenard, but seemed to slight players like Angelo Blackson, Brennan Scarlett, and Charles Omenihu as they were mentioned, but not much in the term of any praise or positivity.

The Texans lost a heck of a player in Reader on the interior defensive line, and many believe (including the author of this article) that Blacklock will be the “real deal” and the perfect replacement for Reader over time, but we must not overlook others as they just have not had the proper amount of time on the field (which PFF mentioned).

Houston Texans News: Looking at unsung players from the d-line in 2020

One player who could really take his game to another level in 2020 is the aforementioned Charles Omenihu, as he played sparingly in 2019 as a rookie. That is fine, because this is a whole new season, he has been around the franchise for a season now and it will be fun to see if he does take that next step in his NFL progression.

Omenihu can be a sleeper for the Houston Texans defensive line because he is such a young player, so there is no way that he’s even reached his overall potential. Last season, Omenihu played in parts of 14 games, and in his rare appearances he had two passes defensed, two forced fumbles and three sacks. He also chipped in 13 total tackles, two tackles for loss and had five quarterback hits.

A couple stats stand out there, which are his three sacks and five quarterback hits. To be honest, those aren’t bad numbers for a player like Omenihu, who wasn’t given the most defensive snaps as a rookie, and a player who was new to the league. If he gains more playing time, the Houston Texans could have a big deal on the defensive line as a pass rusher.

Again, there is a bit of unknown when it comes to the Texans defensive line in 2020 so being the 16th-ranked unit overall by PFF isn’t such a bad thing.

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There is room for growth for the unit, but not only the younger players being fast learners will make this group better, but Watt staying healthy is the top key for the Houston Texans defensive line being above average. Watt makes the defensive line better, and in 2020, he’ll be needed more than ever for success to happen.