The Houston Texans’ defensive line is in a tough spot. It was all J.J. Watt and nobody else last season. This past offseason, the Texans ceremoniously released Watt instead of trying to work out a trade to get anything for him—Watt of course wanted to be released to find a new home of his choice following Houston’s latest 4-12 season and the direction of the franchise. P.J. Hall was sent to Injured Reserve after almost making plays. Brandon Dunn was still bad. Ross Blacklock was used like D.J. Reader without being anywhere close to Reader. Whitney Mercilus is decrepit. Charles Omenihu is pretty good.
The Texans have a similar defensive line situation entering 2021, minus Watt. It’s a lot of nothing. They added Jaleel Johnson, Vincent Taylor, and Maliek Collins this offseason to go along with their current roster. Omenihu is the de facto leader of this unit now. He’s a good interior pass rusher, but not much else. The Texans are banking on Collins’ 2020 misery to be due to injuries, natural progression from young players, and for things that have never happened before to occur.
Pro Football Focus ranked the 32 defensive lines entering the 2021 NFL season. As you might expect, they had the Texans dead at the bottom, malodorous and purple:
32. Houston Texans
Houston’s defensive line ranked dead last in overall PFF grade as a unit (47.0) in 2020. And that was despite J.J. Watt earning an 85.4 overall grade on over 1,000 defensive snaps. Things aren’t getting any better with Watt no longer in town. The Texans will need younger players, such as Charles Omenihu (52.1 overall grade in 2020) and Ross Blacklock (30.2), to take big steps forward if their defensive line is to be anything other than the NFL’s worst such unit again next season.
At least Houston has seventeen linebackers. They don’t even need to utilize a defensive lineman if they don’t want to. The stress on the DL is going to be on the linebackers to pick up the slack.