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Red Zone Play: Down The Line

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Questions abound on the Texans’ offensive line.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In last week’s column, we took a big picture look to the Houston Texans’ remaining roster needs, specifically right tackle, safety and kick returner. While not much has changed since then for most of those position groups, there have been some newsworthy tidbits regarding the offensive line.

First, and most likely to be voted a lightning-rod blurb, All-World left tackle Duane Brown held out of the voluntary team workouts, allegedly to communicate his desire for a new contract, or at least adjustments to his current deal.

One of the things that takes a group of men and turns them into a championship caliber offensive line is consistency. The more time they spend together, taking reps, studying, performing walk-thrus and executing in live game scenarios, the better they get as a unit. At the moment, the only consistently good thing about the Texans’ offensive line is Duane Brown. So, while it’s not a normal thing for Rick Smith to renegotiate a deal that has two years left on it, it’s a pretty safe bet to say this situation is immediately a top priority for the contract crew down at NRG Park.

In other O-Line news, not only is second year center Nick Martin back from the ankle injury that held him out all last year, but when he was asked about it last week, he said it was “good to go.”

Duane Brown, head coach Bill O’Brien, and many others see huge potential for Martin in the coming months and years, so having him back, along with a fiscally satisfied Brown, should solidify the two key positions on the line.

ESPN’s Sarah Barshop was asked recently who she sees as the starting lineup for the Texans offensive line this year, and she listed the following:

LT: Duane Brown

LG: Xavier Su’a-Filo

C: Nick Martin

RG: Jeff Allen

RT: Chris Clark

While the left side shouldn’t have any real problem getting it done, anyone who watched Jeff Allen—including Jeff Allen—last season isn’t convinced he brought his A game.

Chris Clark is also a bit of a question mark. He’s shown promise and exudes versatility, but is he truly ready to one-up former starting RT Derek Newton? As much as we love Newton, coming back from not one, but two major knee injuries is asking an awful lot of anyone. Clark may be this season’s diamond in the rough.

Another x-factor is the triumphant return of tackle David Quessenberry.

Like so many other players on the roster, and to some extent even more so, DQ is the kind of man you want to root for at every turn. Having overcome cancer, an opponent far more lethal than anything he could ever face on the gridiron, Quessenberry is now ready to bring his skills and talents to bear blocking the best front seven in the game. Having J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus coming at you full speed will test any lineman’s mettle. Iron sharpens iron, and Houston’s defensive front is full of sharpening opportunities for the 26-year old tackle.

Another variable to toss into the mix is Houston’s one and only free agent acquisition from another team this offseason, RT Breno Giacomini. The ten-year vet played on the Seattle Seahawks line during their 2013 Super Bowl run and had some flashes of greatness early on with the Jets before being jettisoned from New York this spring.

Kendall Lamm, Greg Mancz, Chad Slade, Josh Walker and rookies Kyle Fuller and Julien Davenport should shake out to be the depth for the O-Line, but only time will tell.

Overall, this unit does seem to be slightly better off than last year’s initial offering, but there’s still a lot of water to wash under the bridge before the Texans take the field on opening day. They will need to open some gaping holes for Lamar Miller, D’Onta Foreman and Alfred Blue while keeping the jerseys of Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson clean.

Either way, if they hope to mirror the success the Houston Astros are having in 2017, the Texans will need their offensive linemen to put together a special year, regardless of talent, time, reps, injuries, and anything else thrown their way.

Who do you project as the starters when September rolls around? Have any linemen not currently on the Texans you’d love to see land in H-Town?