Houston Texans Offseason Manifesto: Constructing an offensive juggernaut

Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /
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Tytus Howard, Houston Texans
Tytus Howard #71 of the Houston Texans (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Houston Texans: Overview of the tackles and center

The Houston Texans have a solid offensive tackle protecting the blindside of Deshaun Watson in Laremy Tunsil. Houston gave up a king’s ransom to land Tunsil, and two full seasons later it is most likely unanimously seen as an overpay. However, that does not mean Tunsil is not a productive player. Still only 26 years of age, Tunsil has been named a Pro Bowler both seasons he has been in Houston.

Tunsil’s bookend is Tytus Howard, the 2019 first round pick out of Alabama State. While the Howard selection was initially scrutinized as a reach, Howard has shown some promise throughout his two years in the league. I would imagine the Texans are still relatively bullish on Howard’s potential, and that is certainly justified.

Anytime you have a quarterback as talented as Deshaun Watson, keeping him on his feet is priority number one. For all his faults, former head coach and GM Bill O’Brien at least invested heavily in the offensive tackle position on his way out the door. While Houston’s offensive line certainly still has question marks, there are a lot of teams that are in worse shape at the tackle position.

The interior of Houston’s offense line was responsible for a lot of the struggles the offense faced in 2020. There were some fans who tossed around the idea of kicking Howard inside to guard and provide Charlie Heck an opportunity to win the starting right tackle job. Heck, a 2020 fourth round pick, got a couple of starts at the end of the season and had some promising moments.

It is an intriguing proposition, but I generally am not a fan of playing musical chairs along the offensive line. When the Houston Texans drafted Howard, everyone looked at him as a project. You could strongly argue that he has exceeded expectations so far.

Tackles are also usually more difficult to find than guards. Enter 2021 with Howard as your starter at RT, if he has not shown much growth and Houston’s offensive line continues to struggle through the first couple games next year then perhaps it would be time to do some experimenting.

As things currently stand, the center position is held by Nick Martin. Martin signed an extension in September 2019. He does pose as an intriguing option to cut, as he could save north of $6 million towards the 2021 salary cap. Proponents of cutting ties with Martin could point towards his disappointing 2020 season. According to Pro Football Focus, Nick Martin graded a 29th out of 37 centers that were graded on the season. A player getting paid the salary of Martin simply has to perform at a higher level.

Cutting Martin still feels unlikely. He’s been a reliable player over the past four years, and there are serious question marks plaguing the rest of the interior. In the three years prior to 2020, Martin graded as a league-average center. Hopefully, for Houston’s sake, he will return to that level of play in 2021. The team simply does not have the resources to replace starting-caliber players like Martin this offseason.

The trio of Howard, Martin, and Tunsil provided Houston with a combined 44 starts during 2020. It would be surprising if any of these three players weren’t back next year. All three project to enter the 2021 campaign as important starters up front for the Houston Texans.