To advance in the playoffs, you must protect the QB and run the ball well

Texans must address O-line issues

Last year's O line was bad. This year might have been worse. Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The off season starts now for the Houston Texans and the time is now to address the most glaring weakness on this football team. The offensive line for the Texans was exactly that, offensive, all season long. We knew it was an issue last year and new GM Brian Gaine had improving the group in charge with protecting Deshaun Watson as his top priority in the off season. We knew if he could do that in his first year on the job, he would no doubt win over the fans and impress his employer as well as his head coach, Bill O' Brien. Everyone had high hopes that with the check book open and possibly a few savy draft manuevers, this team could block, protect and take this squad to a whole new level. Watson was coming off season ending knee surgery as well, so it was imperitive that the line improve if the franchise quarteback was to survive the entire season and stay upright enough to win more games.

With that said, he was limited in the draft picks he had at his disposal and passed on the biggest names hitting the market in free agency. Instead he looked for bargains and steals and guys that had underachieved as well as considering veterans that hpefully had something left in the tank. After starting the season 0-3 and putting Watson in harms way on seeminlgy eery play, the five guys up front for the Texans looked like they might just be the worst offensive line in football and clearly a step down from the sub par group that finished the 2017 season. Just when it looked like it was over and done and the team had no chance to make the playoffs, let alone win their first game, along came Deshaun and his surgically repaired knee, feeling good and running around slinging the rock to the tune of nine straight wins. Thanks to his incredible athletic ability and ridiculous escapability in the pocket, the line looked like it improved with every victory as fans were too giddy with the W's to continue harping on the worst position group on the roster. They won the division and won 11 games, making the playoffs after starting 0-3, a feat that hadn't been done since 1998. It was all good in the NRG neighborhood, right? WRONG!

Along came the playoffs and as every victorious team in the opening weekend of the post season can attest, you have to have solid line play for four quarters as you protect your QB and open up holes for your running game to win at the most critical time of the season. The Colts, Eagles, Cowboys and Chargers checked all those boxes as they survived and advanced to the divisional round next weekend. Philly and LA kept their QB upright and held off two of the best defenses in the league, while Dallas won by opening up big holes for the running game against a stingy Seattle defense and we all know what Andrew Luck was able to do against Houston.

The Texans were sent home to lick their wounds and start the process of improving for next year by addressing the most glaring weaknesses on the roster. It's safe to say it all starts with the o-line and overhauling a position group that gave up a whopping 62 sacks this year while forcing Watson to endure 133 hits in and around the pocket. Those numbers rank up there with the David Carr era as the third worst protection performance in team history, and was in the ballpark of the two worst performances protecting a QB in NFL history. Carr was sacked 76 times in 2002 which set the league record and he almost topped that mark with 68 more in 2005. The only other season where a team surrendered 70 or more sacks was in 1986 when Randall Cunningham was taken down 72 times as a member of the Eagles.

So it's safe to say, the line was absolutely horrendous and it could have been worse if they didn't have such a talented signal caller behind center. When you factor in that Watson led the team in rushing Saturday with 76 yards and it wasn't the first time that had happened, it gives you even more ammunition to how bad the blocking was, as well as the protection. The offensive line failed to open up holes for the running game against Indianapolis just as they had failed to do in the last meeting between the two teams in the regular season. They also had surrendered 12 sacks to the Colts in two games this season and three more on Saturday, while the Colts have only allowed Andrew Luck to be taken down 18 times all season, including the game two days ago. Watson led the team in rushing Saturday in part because he was constantly running for his life and trying to escape pressure in the pocket. He finished the year as the teams' second leading rusher with over 500 yards on the ground partly because it was the only way he could attempt to stay safe and avoid another serious injury.

Now that you finally have your franchise quarterback in Houston, the time is now for Brian Gaine and the Texans front office to address the most glaring need and improve the O-line through the draft and free agency. They will have a full compliment of picks at their disposal and enough money to put themselves in position to overhaul the current group and upgrade the position group accross the board. They better, because if they don't Texans' fans better prepare for more heartbreak and failure than divison titles and playoff victories.

Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Often times, sports can be a copycat forum. Whether it's trying to replicate an offense, defense, philosophy, or outright style biting, we rarely see anything original. Sports sometimes take their cues from Hollywood. How many remakes of old movies and ideas have we seen? Or, how many different iterations of a successful movie franchise will we continue to get shoved down our throats? (I'm looking at you Fast And Furious. But I'm going to see the new one anyway.)

Every so often, we'll get the pleasure of a trailblazer. Someone who stands out against the crowd and prefers to do something so out of the box, we may choose to fully embrace the different approach, or, we may choose to mock the out of the box ideas. The Texans have chosen to blaze their own trail and go with a general manager by committee for the upcoming season. They came to this conclusion (forced into it) after a failed attempt to woo Nick Caserio away from the Patriots amidst tampering charges. Bill O'Brien, Jack Easterby, Chris Olsen, and Jamey Rootes will all play a part in fulfilling the role of GM. I go back and forth as to whether they've made the right decision and whether or not it'll work. Let's take a look at a few reasons to support both sides of the argument:

Will Work: Three or four heads better than one

Texans Chairman and CEO D. Cal McNair

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Think back to when you were in school. I know that may be difficult for some of us that are long removed from those days. What was one of your favorite type of assignments? Typically, group assignments were fun because you got to collaborate with others on a project. It worked best if you chose your own group because you knew everyone would pull their weight. This may be the case here, as long as there are clear cut lines in which each person will operate and how tough decisions will be made.

Won't Work: Too many sheriffs, not enough cops

Texans EVP of Team Development Jack Easterby

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Those same group projects have also been known to cause division, friction, and make getting a good grade nearly impossible. All of the guys on this committee have primary responsibilities. Now they have to take on extra duties. This can lead to some lacking in areas of each of their jobs. We've all experienced a collaborative effort gone wrong. Whether someone didn't pull their weight, or someone was a control freak, there's always a chance of something going awry when multiple people have to come together for a common goal, especially when you're dealing with a bunch of alpha males used to being the in charge of their own lane but forced to cooperate and collaborate with others.

Will Work: Everyone's seats are hot

Texans President Jamey Rootes

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I grew up respecting the knowledge older people could pass along. I may not have always listened to what they said, but I most definitely absorbed those lessons. One saying I remember and still hold onto is "pressure can make a diamond or crack a pipe." The former is why I think this setup will work. When former GM Brian Gaine was fired late into this offseason, it put everyone on notice that their jobs are also on the line. If this group can feel that heat and use it to fuel them positively, this GM by committee thing can work.

Won't Work: No blueprint or copycat source

Texans Senior VP of Football Operations Chris Olsen

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Like I said previously, sports are a copycat forum. Usually, there's someone somewhere that's done it before that you can get a few pointers from. Hell, the Texans organization has been trying to replicate what the Patriots have done for almost their whole existence! However, there hasn't been an example that I can think of in which any sports franchise has had a committee of people fill the role of GM instead of a single person. When you have an example to follow, it's similar to having directions on assembling a toy you've bought for your kid. Next time you try putting something together, do it without the instructions and see how easy/difficult it could be.

While the draft and the bulk of free agency has come and gone, there's always work a GM is doing that will help his team. There are always players on other teams to watch in case they're cut. There's also college players to keep an eye on for the upcoming draft, as well as a multitude of other duties an NFL GM has on a daily basis. Information funneled through one person and sent out to others is much more concise than being funneled through several and sent out to many.

Signals can get crossed. Critical steps or info can get missed and/or overlooked. However, we don't know if this will or won't work because we have nothing to base it off of. We will have to wait and see how this plays out. Who knows? We may be on the verge of something new and innovative in sports. We could also be seeing a disaster the likes of which we've never seen. Let's wait and see what happens before we pass judgement.

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