Texans training camp preview: Offensive line

Nick Martin, left, a holdover on the offensive line, will try to help lift Deshaun Watson and the Texans. Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Here we go! The position group everyone wants to talk about. The Texans are only going to go as far as these guys will let them. The running game has to improve. The pass protection has to improve. It’s just the facts. The Texans were the worst offensive line in 2017 and without picks in the first two rounds of the draft they had to make some moves in the offseason.

The new players brought in to help up front are guard Zach Fulton, a free agent from the Kansas City Chiefs. Tackle Seantrel Henderson from the Buffalo Bills and guard Senio Kelemete from the New Orleans Saints. These three acquisitions were the first big steps taken to prove that the o-line was going to be better this season.

Kelemete and Fulton started the most games last season but neither were full-time. Seantrel Henderson has been a bit of a disappointment. He battles Crohn’s disease and has been suspended more than once for marijuana use. He was once a highly touted prospect and a top-rated NFL rookie at right tackle for Buffalo. He’s coming to Houston in hopes of reviving his career and boosting a troubled line.

Adding two guards isn’t the sexiest upgrade to the front five, but it may prove to be better than it looks. The Texans have a quarterback who understands how to move in the pocket and avoid pressure. Deshaun Watson can help the pass protection by being himself. But solidifying the interior line along with returning center Nick Martin will give the running backs some extra push they didn’t have last year. Get better yards in the run game, you keep the offense from being one-dimensional.

Big guys get hurt though so there are plenty of backups on the roster fighting for what should be a reserve role. That means that returning guards Greg Mancz, Chad Slade and Kyle Fuller will have to show they belong against newcomers Anthony Coyle and Mason Gentry. This camp is also another chance for David Quessenberry to get his career back on track after recovering from cancer.

On the outside, the Texans have a lot of fresh faces. In addition to Seantrel Henderson, GM Brian Gaine has brought in Roderick Johnson, who was with the Browns organization last year; Jaryd Jones-Smith and third-round pick Martinas Rankin from Mississippi State.

Those four will make a push for playing time against returning tackles Kendall Lamm and Julie’n Davenport. Most analysts are expecting Davenport to start the season at left tackle protecting Watson’s blindside. He was considered a work in progress when he was taken in the 4th round last year and had his feet put to the fire during his rookie season. He is a big guy at 6’7” 320 lbs, but needed work on his technique. Hopefully he’s done that this offseason and is ready to take over the spot that Duane Brown held for so long.

Tackle will be intense during camp because the battle between Henderson and rookie Martinas Rankin at right tackle could go either way. There’s also the possibility that Rankins is the future at left tackle. It might be a pretty open competition with some big ups and downs between now and September. After a forgettable 2017, this group has to look and play a lot better if the Texans want to compete in a tough division.


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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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