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What To Do At DT?

We now take a break from free agency speculation and analysis to resume our "What To Do..." series.  The Texans haven't added any defensive tackles yet via free agency and seem unlikely to do so; in the event someone new comes to Reliant Park in the coming days, the following is subject to change.  Here's who the team currently has on the roster:

  1.  Amobi Okoye
  2.  Tim Bulman
  3.  Travis Johnson (curiously, he's the only player specifically listed as a nose tackle on the current roster)
  4.  Anthony Maddox
  5.  DelJuan Robinson
  6.  Jeff Zgonina
Let's start from the top.  Simply put, Amobi Okoye is an animal who will be wreaking havoc upon the NFL for years to come.  He hit the rookie wall hard in late October and November, but he seemed to get a second wind as the season wound down.  While it's unreasonable to expect anyone (even a prodigy like Amobi) to make the quantum leap that Super Mario did in his second year, it's completely fair to expect him to show sizable improvement in Year Two.  Great news for us; terrible news for the AFC South.  Although it goes without saying, pencil Okoye in for one starting slot in 2008.

Bulman and Robinson began 2007 on the practice squad, and Robinson was actually activated for the last game of the season.  Consequently, my read is that Bulman is a long shot to make the active roster, and Robinson's likely role is limited to a best-case scenario of getting into the rotation.  Thus barring another crippling spate of injuries, neither of them should be counted upon to regularly line up next to Amobi.  

At this point of his career, Zgonina is purely a rotation guy and a mentor for the younger guys on the roster.  I have little doubt he'll be back, though it's difficult to imagine he'll have a sizable, on-field role in 2008.

My feelings on Travis Johnson are well documented, so I won't repeat them here (except to say that my defense of him in Chop-Block-Concussion-Gate still bewilders and frightens me).  Any doubt that he was worthy of a first-round pick by the previous regime should be gone; he clearly wasn't.  That said, Tr. Johnson definitely had his best season in 2007.  Frankly, if Smithiak didn't hand him his walking papers before last year, I cannot foresee them getting rid of him now (much to my chagrin).  But should he be starting?  I don't think so.  In the absence of any new faces at DT, give me Anthony Maddox starting at the other tackle spot.  I think Kubes had it right last summer, though he ultimately changed his mind.  At the very least, I hope Kubes declares it an open competition heading into training camp and gives Maddox another chance to show he is the better defensive tackle.

Another option--move Anthony Weaver inside.  This would be especially palatable if Weaver agreed to renegotiate his contract.  For all of my misgivings about his play at DE and his sizable contract, he may be a better option at DT than Tr. Johnson or Maddox (though I would have concerns about how Weaver would stack up against the run).  Assuming no radical changes on the roster, Weaver at DT may be a prime opportunity for the Texans to have their four (4) best linemen on the field.

No matter what Smithiak decides, the team ideally needs a space-eating run-stopper to accompany Amobi on the interior.  The first few furious days of free agency saw several such big boys change teams, but the price of poker (e.g., multiple middle-round draft picks and absolutely ridiculous guaranteed money) was understandably too rich for Smithiak's blood.  As with damn near every position on the team, the preferable method for picking up help here is the draft.  Given the team's dire needs elsewhere, I'd say that we won't see a DT selected by the franchise until the fifth round or later, if at all.  

Here's a partial list of defensive tackles eligible for the draft; does anyone catch your eye?  Or rather, are there any reasonable, later-round options for your Houston Texans that would be better additions than adding help elsewhere?