CAMP COUNTDOWN

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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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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