The Houston Texans offensive line is far from being considered among the NFL’s best and that could hold the team back in 2017.
The playoff window is open now for the Houston Texans. The AFC South is a weak division and the Texans have won back-to-back championships, despite shoddy quarterback play.
With the quarterback always on the forefront of everyone’s mind, it is easy to overlook other offensive pieces that can help turn a new starter into a competitive, competent player. Whether it is Tom Savage or Deshaun Watson at quarterback for the Texans, the offensive line has to step up as a unit. The Texans cannot afford another David Carr situation, especially after investing two first round picks to get Watson.
In that regard, the 2017 season is key for the offensive line. The Houston offensive line is not filled with household names and there are few standouts among the starting five. This was most readily apparent in Pro Football Focus’ recent ranking of offensive lines. The Texans were 29th in the NFL and last in the AFC South division. Writer Michael Renner’s analysis was succinct:
"The emergence of Nick Martin and Julie’n Davenport could work wonders for this line, but there’s little hope for the status quo from a season ago. Left guard Xavier Sua-Filo looks like a bust at this point after back-to-back seasons as a bottom 20 guard."
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While it is perhaps unfair to write off Martin and Davenport simply because they have not emerged despite not taking a snap, it is fair to say that there are many questions surrounding the offensive line. Few teams have a situation as uncertain as Houston heading into training camp.
Finding some certainty appears to be key for the team’s overall success. Lamar Miller and the other running backs need to be able to set the tone on offense and control the clock. The balance has to be near 50/50 between run and pass with Savage or Watson under center as they both get accustomed to being starters with significant playing time for the first time in their careers.
If the offensive line isn’t up to the task, Miller and company will struggle to gain yards and be relied upon as threats that can be weapons to complement a passing attack that shines primarily because of DeAndre Hopkins‘ ability as a receiver. Without bringing the defense into the box to account for the run, the Hopkins-show may not get going as the defense can cheat to cover him with more players.
The big guys up front cannot be overlooked heading into 2017 and it appears the Texans may have done so. With only a limited time left before cap troubles threaten Houston’s dominant defense, it is fair to question how many uncertain pieces the Texans can afford to have in the next couple seasons.
Even if Watson becomes a franchise signal caller, he will need a competent team around him and without an offensive line of the highest caliber there may be a wasted season before the Texans are able to actually compete for a Super Bowl.