The fear has been realized. Nick Martin, Houston's 2016 second round draft pick, had surgery to repair a high ankle sprain that he suffered in training camp. This injury is expected to keep him off the field for the entire season. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported today, a/k/a sent out a tweet, that all of this happened last night.
Source: #Texans center Nick Martin recently underwent ankle surgery from Dr. Robert Anderson in NC. He’s expected to miss the 2016 season.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 25, 2016
This is very scary. Tony Bergstrom, signed as a free agent in March, was bad in Oakland and has been bad at playing football in Houston so far this preseason. The other current option at center is Greg Mancz, and backing up him is Dalton Freeman--neither of which are NFL caliber players. Houston is either going to roll with Bergstrom this season, sift through someone else's trash, or pick around the waiver wire like a buzzard. Brian Schwenke of Tennessee and Jonotthan Harrison of Indianapolis are two former starters who were replaced this offseason that I thought played well last year. Who knows who Houston likes, though? Keep an eye out for them to add someone else to the roster this week or next.
The other haunting part of this equation is the Texans' offensive line hasn't been healthy this preseason. Derek Newton has missed time with a hamstring injury. Duane Brown is still coming around after tearing his quad in the regular season finale against the Jaguars. With Martin gone, three of their five projected starters have been missing from an offensive line that already lacks continuity with the departures of Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks.
Last year, the offensive line was below average to start off the season because of similar circumstances. Derek Newton had to play guard when Brandon Brooks was out. Xavier Su'a-Filo didn't consistently start until the Cincinnati game. Duane Brown missed two early games as well last year. When the offensive line that was supposed to start in August finally came together around the middle of the season, they began controlling the ground game and keeping Brian Hoyer out of harm's way. This season, the Texans will never even have the opportunity to put their five best players on the field.
The difference is that Houston now has skill players this year and a quarterback who isn't near the bottom of the league when facing pressure. Lamar Miller can make runs happen out of nothing and can manufacture yards on his own. Braxton Miller and others have the ability to take quick passes and make plays in space. Brock Osweiler was 21st in the league in DVOA while under pressure, not 37th (dead last), like Brian Hoyer was. This year version's of the Texans doesn't have to rely on the offensive line as much as last year's.
All that being said, this is terrible news. The Texans lose a year from a second round pick who excels in pass protection, moving the first level, and who was supposed to start. They don't have any other reliable options on the roster with Martin out. Houston hasn't had success using backups to toss an offensive line together. Rick Smith has some phone calls to make.
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