Sometimes all it takes is one key player to make a big difference. Anyone who doesn’t believe that should simply look at how the Texans’ defense fares when J.J. Watt isn’t on the field.
On the other side of the trenches, that player is Laremy Tunsil. The Houston Texans are currently averaging 2.8 sacks given up per game, down from a league worst 3.8 last season. While Tunsil didn’t take the Texans from worst to first when the team traded for him just days before the regular season began, he certainly has had a hand in taking them from worst to middle of the pack.
He’s also arguably elevated the play of the entire offensive line.
Through 15 weeks, the Texans are the only team in the NFL whose five primary starting offensive linemen all have a pass block grade over 70!— PFF HOU Texans (@PFF_Texans) December 18, 2019
LT Laremy Tunsil (89.9)
LG Max Scharping (70.1)
C Nick Martin (79.3)
RG Zach Fulton (74.8)
RT Tytus Howard (70.4)
While rookies Max Scharping and Tytus Howard (now on IR) have helped, Tunsil has been the deciding factor. Many people have a problem with what Houston gave up to get Tunsil, in the form of two first rounders and a second round draft pick for Tunsil and Kenny Stills, knowing the team could use those three picks to acquire a Pro Bowl left tackle and one of the best deep threat receivers in the league makes the trade seem pretty solid now in hindsight. Particularly if the Texans can lock Tunsil in long-term, which Tunsil says he’s interested in doing.
Laremy Tunsil, first-time Pro Bowler, was asked if he wants to play in Houston for a long time. He said yes.— Aaron Reiss (@aaronjreiss) December 18, 2019
While signing with the Houston Texans for the rest of his career might not have been on Tunsil’s radar this time last year, making the Pro Bowl certainly was, even though it never happened in Miami.
Tunsil describes the piece of paper he stuck to his wall with his life goals. Making the Pro Bowl, getting drafted among the items on the list. Media is so interested in the details that Tunsil says he’ll take a picture of it next time he goes home. #Texans— Deepi Sidhu (@DeepSlant) December 18, 2019
However, it’s not all roses and sunshine with Tunsil, who has twelve false start penalties this season, one less than he had in all three seasons in Miami. Yet his impact has been far superior to that of any other player Houston has started at left tackle since the departure of Duane Brown (for comparison’s sake, Brown has only had one false start in his last three seasons in Houston).
According to NFLpenalties.com, Tunsil is the most penalized player in the NFL this season, with 15 total. Perhaps those false starts and ineligible receiver downfield flags (3x) can be attributed to Tunsil getting familiar with the Texans’ offense. Hopefully these sorts of mental errors aren’t coming from the same brain space that led to Tunsil’s draft day plummet when a photo of him wearing a bong gas mask circulated, costing the young player a likely top five draft slot and potentially millions of dollars (the Baltimore Ravens, who were rumored to take Tunsil, selected Ronnie Stanley instead with the sixth pick; Stanley signed a $20.48 million contract, while Tunsil fell to the Dolphins at 13, signing a $12.45 million deal). Prior to draft day, Tunsil was widely considered to be the best prospect in the draft.
Thankfully for Houston, Tunsil’s fall had a silver lining, as there was a decent chance Tunsil would have been drafted by the Tennessee Titans with the #1 pick. Tennessee ultimately traded that pick to the Los Angeles Rams, who selected Jared Goff. Once the bong photo circulated, the Titans reportedly removed Tunsil from their draft board altogether, as did the Ravens.
While we can easily write off the ill-advised photo op to youthful stupidity, Tunsil’s mental growth as a left tackle has been verified with his Pro Bowl selection. Blocking for a quarterback like Deshaun Watson is just icing on the cake. Hopefully, Tunsil has added “Block for DW4 4ever” onto the piece of paper on his childhood wall.
Do you believe Tunsil deserved the Pro Bowl selection? Feel like any other Texans linemen were snubbed?