After investing an enormous number of resources, multiple first and second round picks, and significant cap space, entering their second year together, last season was supposed to be the year the Texans’ offensive line came together. It in fact was not. The Texans suffered from the same problems it did in 2019—a mismatched offensive line that couldn’t block the run cohesively, middle school blitz pick-up issues, Zach Fulton whiffs. average pass protection, and they were one of the worst run blocking units in the league.
Fulton and Nick Martin are gone. In are Justin Britt and Marcus Cannon, whose entrance into the ring could stupidly lead to a position change for Tytus Howard. Others who will increase the competition on this roster have also arrived—watch out, Max Scharping.
Most importantly, offensive line coach Mike Devlin is gone. After failing to develop young players and watching veterans get better elsewhere, the Texans finally have a real offensive line coach again in James Campen. The thing we pleaded for has occurred. I’m sure it will make a difference.
We can ring the bells of continuity and competition. We can sign the praises of the new offensive line coach. But thinking the Texans will have an offensive line that matches its investment is wishful thinking. It’s one of those things that hasn’t happened. Until it actually happens, we shouldn’t expect it to happen.
Pro Football Focus recently ranked the NFL’s offensive lines, along with other position groups entering the 2021 season. They had Houston’s ranked 20th and had the following to say:
20. Houston Texans
Like many of the Texans’ offseason moves, they attacked the offensive line with volume. This should be a decent group after the unit finished 23rd in our final 2020 rankings.
Left tackle Laremy Tunsil dropped off a bit last year, ranking 28th with a 75.4 overall grade. He’s developed into one of the best pass-protecting tackles in the league, as his 85.8 pass-blocking grade ranked fourth. However, he finished the year as just the 50th-ranked run-blocking tackle (61.7).
Marcus Cannon comes over from the Patriots to likely man the right tackle spot. Cannon opted out last year, but he’s graded at 70.0 or better in his past four seasons, with a peak at 86.6 back in 2016. That will likely push 2019 first-rounder Tytus Howard inside to guard after he earned grades of 59.4 and 62.1 in his two years at right tackle.
At left guard, Max Scharping is the incumbent, but he’s also posted subpar grades in his two NFL seasons. Scharping has been better in pass protection than in the run game, a theme for Texans linemen over the past two years.
Justin Britt has come out of retirement to play center. We last saw Britt in 2019, when his 62.0 overall grade ranked 25th among centers. His best season came in 2016 (81.6), and he’s graded in the 60.0s in each season since then
There’s good depth beyond the projected starters, including guard Lane Taylor, who graded in the high 60.0s in his three years as a starter from 2016-18. Geron Christian and Roderick Johnson are both viable backups at tackle, and guard Hjalte Froholdt is a fine developmental prospect who has played just 70 snaps in two NFL seasons.
The Texans should field a mid-tier starting offensive line to go with one of the better second units in the league.
There you have it. Continuity and competition. A tremendous idea. Hopefully this will finally be the year Houston’s offensive line is one of the better ones in the league again.