I briefly considered addressing the offensive line as one unit in a single post, but decided against it for two (2) reasons. First, I don't want to gloss over a particular position in the name of keeping it under 5,000 words. And second, it ain't like we're pressed for time here. The 2008 NFL Draft is still nearly three (3) months away. Crap.
So let's build toward the crescendo that is left tackle, shall we? Here's where the Texans stand at right tackle:
- Eric Winston
- Rashad Butler
Now, before we all have a simultaneous coronary, we should take stock of the fact that Ephraim Salaam (currently the starting LT) was originally signed to be a reserve tackle who could swing between the left and right sides. He has, of course, been forced into a more prominent role because of Charles Spencer's injury (for a disheartening update on Spencer, check out Lance Zierlein's response to the first comment in this post or Steph's comment at DGDB&D here). And Jordan Black was signed to....well, I'm not quite sure. To make Kansas City fans point and laugh? Seriously, it's not a good sign when fans are openly questioning whether you, a recent free agent signee with a $1,200,000.00 signing bonus, should be released before your first regular season game. Brandon Frye still has to be considered a project; it's tough to know whether the team is counting on him to contribute after a rookie season that saw him on the practice squad for nearly the entire campaign.
Yikes. That's every offensive tackle on the roster. As I'm dangerously close to hyperventilating, let's readjust our focus to right tackle. Winston is a stud and should have the starting spot locked up for the next several years. Clearly, the depth behind him (and at left tackle) is a sizable issue that demands immediate attention. Despite this black hole, we shouldn't despair for one simple reason: Alex Gibbs. He's an offensive line witch who has consistently turned his charges into a team strength everywhere he's been. At the risk of ordering another pitcher of Kool-Aid, I'll hang my hat on the fact that Alex Gibbs will be able to camouflage the line's deficiencies to the greatest extent possible.
So what about the draft? There can be little doubt that the team will look to add depth and talent at tackle (most certainly left tackle, but that's a different post), but I have no idea where, when, or who. Rare is the team that targets a weakside tackle with its first round pick, so I think I'm on solid footing in suggesting that Smithiak won't go RT in Round One. Frankly, with Eric Winston's progress and the possibility (hope?) that Ephraim Salaam and/or Brandon Frye could slide into the primary back-up role, there's a pretty good argument to be made that RT is considerably down the list in terms of draft and free agent priorities. What say you, BRB?