Vastly underrated but not underappreciated.
Rivers' exquisitely crafted note of gratitude to Wade Phillips gave us an idea. For the next several days, we'll periodically be posting entries thanking various people who had a hand in making the Texans' 2011 season as enjoyable as it was. The season's over, which blows, but there's a lot to appreciate, and it's a loooooong offseason, so let's do take a minute to say thank you.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away, there existed a truly rancid offensive line. This line was the butt of many jokes as they gave up an NFL record 72 sacks in 2002. Progress was minimal, at best, as the altered versions of that line followed it up with 153 allowed sacks over the next three seasons, or 51 per season, three-plus per game, if you are doing the math.
During that same time, that line's offense had a rushing game that only averaged over four yards per carry once in the four year span and never cracked the top-10 in rushing yards. The offense as a whole averaged a 28th ranking in yards and 27th in points over this stretch, due in part to a horrific offensive line. This terribad line was really all people knew of the Houston Texans, and thus improvement began.
In 2006, Eric Winston was selected in the third round and Mike Brisiel was picked up as an undrafted free agent. In 2008, Duane Brown was Houston’s first round draft pick, and the front office traded a sixth round pick for Chris Myers – both men would have their critics, one for a lack of quickness and the other for being ragdolled. Finally, in 2010, Wade Smith was signed as a free agent to complete the current quintet of massive bulldozers.
Flash-forward to 2012, where the offensive line is still known league-wide, but now they’re known for their dominance. Now the offensive line is filled with guys who are considered to have been snubbed for the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team by anyone in the know. Many even felt that the All-Pro Second Team spot was an insult to Brown.
The Texans' offense is coming off back-to-back seasons of 2,000-plus rushing yards, finishing seventh in 2010 and second in 2011. Over the same time frame, Houston is averaging two allowed sacks per game. They are being praised routinely by Football Outsiders, Pro Football Focus, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, and ESPN’s Mark Schlereth, just to drop a few names.
This is a group that takes games over and imposes their will on other teams. How else do you explain the Indianapolis home game, the Pittsburgh game, the dual 100-yard game against Tennessee, the wild card game against Cincinnati, or the divisional playoff game against Baltimore? Not only did they help clear the way for Arian Foster’s historic 100-yard game, the first against the vaunted Ravens defense in their playoff history, but they kept Terrell Suggs and the NFL’s third-best sack defense from getting a sack on young T.J. Yates. That's the definition of a reputation-building performance.
Giving then-quarterback David Carr 'fetal position syndrome' to stonewalling the Baltimore Ravens...that’s how far the Houston offensive line has come, and it's thanks to the guys - Duane Brown, Wade Smith, Chris Myers, Mike Brisiel, and Eric Winston - who roll up their sleeves and get to work. These five guys are machine-like in their efficiency, give clinics on how to run a zone-blocking scheme, and are the most balanced offensive line in the league. Thank you, guys, for ending all the 76 jokes, and thank you for making this offense run as well as it has.
P.S. I'll be waiting eagerly to hear of Myers' new deal, Rick. I trust it'll be a quick and painless negotiation process.
P.P.S. Congratulations to Mr. Myers. On Thursday, Myers was named to the AFC Pro Bowl team, along with Antonio Smith, as a replacement. Myers is the first Texans offensive lineman to head to the Pro Bowl, per Nick Scurfield.