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Red Zone Play: Behind The Line

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Looking at what the Texans can do to improve their offensive line this offseason.

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The doldrums of the NFL world are upon us. Mock drafts are everywhere. Franchise tag predictions, free agent speculation and overblown storylines about things that would hardly be newsworthy mid-season are the way of the walk this time of year.

With that in mind, and the fact that this column must go on, let’s take some time to examine a combination of the above topics.

The other day, Weston wrote a spot on piece about what’s wrong with the Texans. Highly recommended reading.

The odd thing about it is you could easily make an argument that the Texans were the second-best team in the AFC last season, based solely on how the season ended.

Both the “what’s wrong with the Texans” and “second best in the AFC” lines are true to a large extent. It’s a verifiable conundrum of NFL proportions for the Texans’ faithful to wrestle with and keep the conversations rolling all off-season.

But let’s get back on track and focus in on the dead horse topics we’re here to beat down some more: the 2017 NFL Draft, free agency, and how to get the offense moving once more.

A wide variety of draft mockers have Houston taking an offensive lineman in the first round, with the caveat that should one of the top rated QBs >cough< Deshaun Watson >cough< fall to them, Houston would take him with a quickness.

Either way, the offense needs line help and better play from under center.

Assuming Duane Brown returns as the anchor he has been for years, Nick Martin comes back to become what he was drafted to be, and Xavier Sua-Filo continues to approach his potential, that leaves question marks on the right side of the line.

Right guard: Jeff Allen could be gone, and David Quessenberry may finally be ready to play this season. As much of a great story as it would be, chances are DQ won’t be a Pro Bowl caliber lineman in 2017.

Right tackle: As sad as it is to say, Derek Newton will most likely never play a down in the NFL again. Chris Clark is a serviceable backup, but not anywhere near the caliber of Duane Brown on the other side.

The only true answer on the line right now is Duane Brown.

Never fear, though. The list of likely NFL free agents has several quality linemen that could be had for the right price:

Luke Joeckel (G—Jacksonville)

Matt Kalil (T—Minnesota)

Sebastian Vollmer (T—New England)

Andre Smith (T—Minnesota)

One of these guys, or a combination of them, along with a few other serviceable backups, could be teamed with a rookie or two to shore up the Texans’ O-line.

Some of the rookies who may or may not find their way to NRG Stadium this April include:

Cam Robinson (T—Alabama)

Dorian Johnson (G—Pittsburgh)

Ryan Ramczyk (T—Wisconsin)

Garett Bolles (T—Utah)

With that in mind, a projected Texans offensive line could look like this:

Duane Brown LT

Xavier Sua-Filo LG

Nick Martin C

Luke Joeckel RG

Cam Robinson RT

Or

Duane Brown LT

Xavier Sua-Filo LG

Nick Martin C

Dorian Johnson RG

Sebastian Vollmer RT

Then, if the offensive brain trust would use Lamar Miller to get to the edge and turn up field, employ some wildcat plays with Braxton Miller in the backfield, get Tyler Ervin the ball in space, hit Jaelen Strong on the slant and out routes, hammer Alfred Blue up the middle, and take advantage of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller over the top, the Texans’ offense would become electric once more.

None of that happens if the offensive line isn’t rock solid. Agree? Disagree? Have your own o-line depth chart for next year? Plant it in the comments section.

Before we return you to your normally scheduled comments – already in progress – we would be remiss to now touch on the overblown storyline part. Can you believe how much Brock Osweiler is getting paid? He’s the 16th highest paid quarterback in the NFL. That’s just insane that any team would pay a signal-caller the sixteenth most in the league. If he was the 15th highest paid or the 17th, it wouldn’t even be newsworthy. But the 16th!! That’s certainly worth a flurry of incredulous hyperbole, horrific shock, and stunning awe.

What’s next? Are those insane number-crunchers in Houston going to pay A.J. Bouye, an undrafted free agent, what he’s worth on the open market? Will DeAndre Hopkins get paid like a star receiver? A contract extension for Jadeveon Clowney and/or Whitney Mercilus? It’s madness, I tell you! Madness!!!

To this day, the amount of attention applied to how much Player X gets paid still boggles my mind. The only people it should matter to are the players, the players’ agents, and the team cap guru. Last time I checked, how much any player got paid had no bearing on the Ws and Ls at the end of the season. It really has no merit to the talking heads on TV, radio, etc. Find something better to focus on than an athlete’s bank account. There ae far more intriguing things to talk about.

Speaking of, have a prediction for the Texans’ offensive repairs? Have some great insight on a free agent or draftee? Think they should simply find ways to improve the All Field Goal Offense and forget the conventional seven-point variety? Share your thoughts in the comments below.