The geriatrics on the Houston Texans’ offensive line have been hit by the injury bug, leaving the children to fend for themselves against possibly the most dominant defensive line in the league this season. Marcus Cannon (back), Justin Britt (knee), and Laremy Tunsil (thumb) all are on IR, with only Tunsil expected to return. If we were already concerned about the offensive line beforehand, now’s we definitely are.
That leaves Geron Christian Sr (25 years old) at left tackle, Tytus Howard (25) at left guard, rookie Jimmy Morrissey (23) at center, Justin McCray (29) at right guard, and Charlie Heck (24) at right tackle. Oh, and backup lineman Max Scharping is also 25. Houston’s current offensive line wouldn’t know that you once had to use dial-up to get internet access.
Both McCray and Christian Sr. are new to the Texans as of this year and have been thrust into starting roles due to injury. McCray received a sturdy contract in free agency from the Texans for a guy who hasn’t held down a consistent starting role; he has always been a depth piece in his career, never starting more than eight games in a season. Last year, he played in just 14% of offensive snaps for the Falcons.
As for Geron Christian Sr., his quick exodus from Washington after several injured years and better performing competition shoved him out the door after being a third round draft pick in 2018. Christian Sr. is a talented run blocker, but his pass blocking skills were always going to be like your aunt’s cranberry sauce that she’ll once again force you to “try this time” in a couple days.
Geron Christian has been a bright spot for the Texans O-line this season.— PFF HOU Texans (@PFF_Texans) November 17, 2021
He has the most pass-blocking snaps without allowing a sack (210) and has only allowed 7 pressures pic.twitter.com/HFd6cF8Etv
At 6’6” and 315 pounds, he’s a prototypical left tackle but lacks legitimate technique to go along with his long frame. He’s been serviceable thus far this season, starting the last four games for the Texans, /when he’s been tricked or beat by the defender, it’s quite obvious.
Tytus Howard has been a disappointing first round pick compared to several of the other options available at the time. Left guard may not be for him based on his performance this season. Many enjoyed him at right tackle, but his inability to run block villainized the Texans all last year.
Tim Kelly on Tytus Howard: "The best offensive line unit that we have ... is with him playing guard ... He's getting better every week, I know probably the analytics don't necessarily reflect that. We can have a different conversation about some of those analytics later..." pic.twitter.com/EkQPtQPip6— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) November 18, 2021
Then there’s Howard’s replacement on the right side of the line, Charlie Heck, who has been considered a swing tackle since the moment the Texans took a flier on him last year. Both players were considered to be overdrafted by the Texans; hopefully they can develop into regular starters if they aren’t too terribly burned already.
The Titans’ defensive line is among the best in the business this year. It’s also one of the youngest. Two of the Titans’ brightest players are Jeffrey Simmons (24 years old) and Teair Tart (24). At linebacker, David Long Jr. (25) leads the team in tackles just in front of his teammate Harold Landry III, who is also 25. Rashaan Evans (26) has been injured for part of the season but when healthy he is a force at ILB. Talented OLB Bud Dupree, who Tennessee picked up in free agency is only 28, in the prime of his career and somehow the veteran of this group. So far, this crew has racked up 27 sacks and allowed the seventh least yards per game. If it weren't for a broken secondary, Tennessee’s front would be able to tee-off more often than they have been able to.
Against the Texans, the Jeffrey Simmons versus Justin McCray matchup could get fairly lopsided. Simmons has five sacks in the past two games and could feasibly double that if the Texans leave him in one-on-one situations.
Outside of the, well, calamity that is the Houston Texans team, this weekend presents a expose on how to draft versus how not to draft. The Texans have three drafted players on their offensive line, a first, second, and fourth round pick. It isn’t set in stone that any of them are true players in the NFL or the best the Texans can put forth given the circumstances. Sunday’s game against the Titans, facing an equally young front, will be a true test to see if Houston’s young talent can withstand what the Titans bring.