One part of the Houston Texans that has quietly improved this offseason is their offensive line. The potential for this group is excellent if the right decisions are made for the starting five, and even more importantly, if the unit can stay healthy.
The Texans are locked in at left tackle for the ’21 season because we all know that Laremy Tunsil will be the starter for the quarterback’s blindside, as he’s one of the very best to play the position in the entire league.
Houston’s offensive line isn’t making any national headlines, nor will they be on the cover of any magazines, but quietly has Nick Caserio built a solid offensive line without many noticing, because let’s say Tunsil and Tytus Howard stay at their tackle positions, the interior offensive line isn’t too bad either.
Howard has been a starting right tackle for two seasons now, but entering his third year there have been talks of moving him inside at guard. Also competing at right guard is Marcus Cannon, whom the Texans traded for this past March, though Cannon started camp on the PUP list. Cannon, like Howard, can be interchangeable on the o-line as he has the ability to be a tackle as well, which is where he’s accustomed to playing while with the Patriots.
Remember, Cannon didn’t play in ’20, so there is a chance he’ll need some time to get back into things, but the good thing for the Texans is the offensive lineman comes from a winning culture as a former member of the Patriots.
Max Scharping should be the left guard for the Houston Texans to start the season, though Justin McCray is on the roster as well, and don’t forget about Lane Taylor, who is on the PUP list to start camp. The three guards are good players in their own right, and playing next to Tunsil isn’t that bad of a gig either.
The biggest change to the offensive line has been at center, where the Texans added veteran Justin Britt to the starting role, replacing the released Nick Martin. Britt is an improvement at the position for the Houston Texans and will be a big part of the success of this unit … that is, if everyone can stay healthy.
Houston Texans: Are there health concerns for the offensive line in 2021?
One thing that should draw a bit of concern is the fact the Texans offensive line has a history with some injuries. Looking at some numbers, Cannon hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2014, and he didn’t play last season as he opted out, so that reduced some of the wear and tear on his body.
Since Tunsil joined the NFL in ’16, he’s never played 16 games, but in his two seasons with the Texans he’s played 14 games in each year. Tunsil has played as many as 15 games in a season in his career twice and no fewer than 14 games.
Howard missed half of a season his rookie year of ’19 with a knee injury, playing in eight games, all starts. In ’20 he had a solid season but missed two games, playing in 14 games. Scharping has been active for 31 of 32 possible games in his two NFL seasons, making eight starts last season, and in his rookie year he started 14 games.
Before joining the Texans this offseason, Britt didn’t play the ’20 season, as he opted out due to the pandemic. He also was recovering from an ACL injury, so maybe the year off will be very beneficial in ’21.
Britt has played six seasons on the field and has played in 16 games in four of those seasons. In ’19 he had his ACL injury, causing him to miss half the season as he played in just eight games.
The positive with some of the history of the aforementioned injuries are the players are back for ’21, and the Texans do have some depth with the previously mentioned Taylor, McCray, Roderick Johnson, Geron Christian, Charlie Heck and others to make this a formidable unit with decent depth.
Yes, there is still work that needs to be done, and the Texans do have improvements in overall play to make, but in past seasons this franchise was a lot “worse for wear” when it came to the offensive line.
Who exactly knows how the ’21 season will turn out, but one thing is the o-line should be of great interest because if some of the linemen have fully recovered from past injuries, and this unit can stay on the field for a majority of the season, they could become the surprise of the NFL season.