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BRB Group Think: The Offensive Line is Trending Up, But How Much?

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BRB discusses whether the offensive line is actually improving two weeks into 2019.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Through two games using only “the eyeball test”, the offensive line appears to be improving. The numbers, however, do not reflect much if any improvement when it comes to pass protection. I saw glimpses of extended clean pockets here and there against both the Saints and Jaguars - something that we almost literally NEVER saw last season.

I was dumbfounded that Seantrel Henderson started Game One at right tackle, but O’Brien did the right thing in Week Two by starting Roderick Johnson. Even if we are left to wonder why O’Brien stuck with Henderson as long as he did, he did at least pull the trigger. If O’Brien isn’t just going to “stick with his guy” and let the best players play - it can’t make up for what’s happening with Mike Devlin, but it can at least get the most talented five on the field.

With that in mind I asked the BRB staff if it thought the Texans’ offensive line was showing improvement despite the numbers.

Chris:

It certainly has looked better while watching game action. Statistics aside (just for a moment), there were times against both New Orleans and Jacksonville where Deshaun Watson had plenty of time to throw and the defensive fronts were making little to no progress to get in his face. That barely EVER happened last year. Still, it’s not nearly good enough but it sure feels like the current line of Tunsil-Howard-Martin-Fulton-Johnson could round into something that gets us to average.

Getting to just-below or average this year would be a massive improvement. I just feel, however, that average or slightly above-average is this group’s ceiling as long as Mike Devlin is the OL coach. The talent can take it to a point of improvement but beyond that? I’m skeptical. That said - an “average” offensive line can dramatically improve this team’s fortune as long as Deshaun and his playmakers stay healthy.

Matt Weston:

The offensive line was better last week than the week before. Last week they didn’t get beat by individual pass rushes, but by stunts and blitzes. It seems like they finally found their best combination. Their only goal this summer was to find a starting offensive line they could stick with, and grow accustomed to playing together, and sure enough, they did the exact opposite of that. They played a different group in back to back weeks. Yet, I do think Tunsil-Howard-Martin-Fulton-Johnson can be a consistent starting five. If they can just figure out how to pick up blitzes, and if Watson can learn how to throw hot, this could be an ok pass protection.

Kenneth O.:

I’ll have to say yes that the offensive line is improving. Definitely better than last year’s group. I would love the combination of (LT) Tunsil, (RG) T. Howard, (C) Z. Fulton, (RG) M. Scharping, and (RT) R. Johnson. With the right chemistry this group can be more than serviceable.

I think the reason why we are still seeing QB pressure is because D4 has to be better in recognizing the blitz faster. The opposing defense’s literally send an all out blitz because they know Watson likes to hold the ball so they send more blitzers than blockers and are successful nearly everytime. That was a problem at the beginning of last season too.

When both Watson and the offensive line improves in chemistry and recognizing the blitz better the Texans will be alright offensively. The run game has drastically improved since Hyde and Johnson joined the team. Excited about that!

Kenneth L.:

Just because there are fewer sacks from week one to two doesn’t mean that it’s improved. The players may be better, but no one has any idea what to do. As you’ll see on my sack tracker, many of the sacks the first two games were from miscues and miscommunication. Yes that will be shored up over time, but until then it’s still a crap shoot. I’ve always been a fan of Roderick Johnson even when he was at Florida State. He is the best run blocking right tackle we’ve had since Derek Newton (who I miss so dearly).

BFmf’nD:

A week before the season started, it looked like our offensive line was going to be Matt Kalil - Zach Fulton - Nick Martin - Senio Kelemete - Seantrel Henderson. Yeesh, that’s putrid. Instead, it’s now Laremy Tunsil - Tytus Howard - Martin (blah) - Fulton - Roderick Johnson.

That’s not a Kubiak-era offensive line, but it appears both on paper and on the field better than the 2018 version. And who the heck isn’t excited about Johnson at RT? He’s fun to watch.

As they play together and build chemistry, this line should improve over the course of the season. For now, they aren’t going to be much better than the 25th best offensive line in the league (and maybe not even that). It’s a heckuva lot better than being the 82nd best offensive line in the league, at least.

Capt. Ron:

After reading Rivers McCown’s article, I am convinced the line is indeed looking better now that the musical chairs session has ended. That will only improve as rookies get more game time and the unit further synergizes together.

The bigger concern in pass protection is coming from blitz packages, and slot-corner in particular, which seems to be a weakness for Watson to pick up this early in his NFL career. I think that will improve over time. As Rivers points out in that article, the OC needs to anticipate blitzing situations and scheme receivers (TE/WR/RB) into the void left behind to punish the defense.

Mike Bullock:

On paper, it’s obviously improved. On the stat sheet, it’s worse. If O’Brien and company are done playing popcorn with the depth chart, then, like BFD said, they’ll develop chemistry - which is what really makes a line greater than the sum of the parts. And, like Cap said, as Watson matures and learns more and more, we could be looking at the light of the end of the tunnel.

If next weekend’s depth chart is different than week two’s, forget everything you just read and expect more of the same.

What are you seeing from the offensive line just two games in? We will surely revisit this question later in the year. Feel free to use the comments below to give your thoughts on Houston’s offensive line improvement (or lack of)!