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The Value of Things: 2023 Houston Texans Jigsaw Puzzle— Defensive Line

What is left to get in the draft?

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NFL: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It was a busy few days in the beginning of the new NFL year. The Houston Texans brought in a significant group of players. Since both the Texans and those of us that follow the Texans have a bit of time between now and the draft, it would be instructive to look at exactly what they have and what that might mean for their draft priorities moving forward.

In short, the Texans run defense surrendered the most rushing yards since the 1972 Patriots. Sure, they did in three more games and there is something to be said for that, but they were 32nd in total rushing yards allowed and 29th in rushing yards per attempt. Clearly, defending the run was a priority coming into the offseason.

Granted, Pro Football Focus is only one source, but given that players come from different systems, it is a decent enough source to gauge overall level of play. PFF have overall grades for players, run defense grades, and pass rush grades. We will use those for this article. Generally speaking, anyone 50 and over is probably worthy of a roster spot, but should be used sparingly in an ideal world. Anyone 60 and over is probably good enough to be a rotational player. Anyone 70 and over is a good starter.

Defensive Ends

Jonathan Greeenard— 284 snaps, 63.4 Overall, 76.6 Run, 55.3 Pass Rush

Greenard is in the last year of his rookie contract. By sheer definition this is a make it or break it season for him. More than anything, he has proven that staying on the field is an issue. If he can stay healthy he could end up being a three down end. If not, the team will need to move on.

Jerry Hughes— 689 snaps, 71.4 Overall, 59.7 Run, 71.3 Pass Rush

Hughes had more snaps than any player currently playing for the Texans. Yet, you can’t help but wonder if he gets cut before the season if the team needs a few million to play with. Hughes had a nice 2022 season, but he will be 35 this coming season. How many sacks does he have left in him?

Chris Winovich (FA) — 178 snaps, 61.1 Overall, 69.5 Run, 52.9 Pass Rush

Winovich comes from the Patriots and looks like a failed pass rusher. Yet, the run grade is potentially a good fit with the defense. Maybe he and Hughes could form a sort of platoon where he plays on first and second down in running situations. If we assume that teams average 60 snaps a game then we would need over 1000 snaps defensively. Winovich could be valuable even in those 300 or 400 run snaps.

Rasheem Green— 567 snaps, 62.4 Overall, 62.9 Run, 58.7 Pass Rush

The team cut ties with Mario Addison, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that Green might be gone as well once training camp gets here. A lot of it will depend on the draft. Green is clearly a decent rotational guy, but he isn’t going to blow anyone’s skirt up.

Team Needs: Looking at the numbers, it is clear that the Texans have plenty of rotational pieces, but there is no one here that really moves the needle. Having an elite edge rusher is a nice to have, but we will need to look at the rest of the defense before we determine where it is a have to have.

Defensive Tackles

Sheldon Rankins (FA)— 558 snaps, 73.1 Overall, 67.5 Run, 66.1 Pass Rush

The Texans invested heavy in Rankin for one season. He clearly is a starting quality player and might be the single biggest addition on defense even after the Texans finish their draft. Three down defensive tackles don’t grow on trees and Rankin is one of the few. Of course, he only has one year on the contract.

Maliek Collins— 601 snaps, 65.4 Overall, 54.1 Run, 76.1 Pass Rush

Collins shouldn’t have played as much as he did, but there just wasn’t anyone else better who could have played in running situations. Their new additions might mean that he doesn’t have to do it as much which could only improve his effectiveness as a disrupter on passing downs.

Hassan Ridgeway (FA)— 285 snaps, 58.8 Overall, 54.5 Run, 62.0 Pass Rush

Ridgeway is one of those bargain bin additions that create all of the buzz of a rice cake. He played in DeMeco Ryans system so he has a head start. He was injured last year, so there is reason to believe he could be better. If he is better then it is a great signing. If he isn’t then at least he is better than Roy Lopez and Kurt Hinish.

Roy Lopez— 557 snaps, 52.7 Overall, 53.0 Run, 52.3 Pass Rush

He technically deserves the roster spot, but these two signings will push him. That seems to be the idea as the team officially has seven defensive tackles on the roster. They added two conventional free agents and added Taylor Stallworth late last season too. Clearly, there will be a competition in camp.

Kurt Hinish— 435 snaps, 49.5 Overall, 55.8 Run, 55.5 Pass Rush

He was an undrafted free agent, so I’m not going to really insult the guy. At a certain level he is simply doing the best he can and the coaches are ultimately responsible for exposing him this much. We wish him luck this year in training camp, but the future is not really all that bright.

Thomas Booker— 206 snaps, 35.3 Overall, 35.0 Run, 52.0 Pass Rush

Booker was a fifth round pick. How good are they really supposed to be? Sure, teams find starting quality players in the fifth round every year, but it certainly isn’t expected. Does Ryans unlock something in him? Would a new system bring out talents we didn’t see last year? I suppose anything is possible.

Taylor Stallworth— 73 snaps, 35.4 Overall, 45.8 Run, 53.0 Pass Rush

Every team has to have 90 guys in camp. I guess Stallworth makes sense on that level, but when I heard the 610 guys gushing over this signing I was just dumbfounded. I guess they are seeing something I’m not. I’m willing to be wrong and certainly hope I am, but I serious;y doubt he is on the roster in September.

Team Needs: Signing Rankins and Ridgeway probably changed the calculus some. The team could conceivably go with a Rankins, Collins, and Ridgeway rotation with a couple of other guys sprinkled in and be okay. Mind you, none of them are all-pro players but the position isn’t a gaping hole anymore either.