The first wave of free agency has come and gone. The Houston Texans added numerous players at a number of different positions in advance of the 2023 season. They also have more than ten selections available to them in the draft. Between free agency and the draft, the Texans can fill some holes if they handle it correctly. Completing the roster is like completing a jigsaw puzzle. What pieces do they have left to get?
In this edition we look at the offensive line. We know the team has traded for Shaq Mason and we know they re-signed Scott Quessenberry. So, where does that put them in regards to building a top offensive line in front of the rookie quarterback? In this case, we will use scores from Pro Football Focus. Granted, there are other sources that evaluate players, PFF scores give us a decent starting point to look at the players currently on the roster.
The vast majority of players range between a 20 and a 90 on their scale. They rate lineman on an overall score, pass blocking, and run blocking. A few players will score over 90 on some individual skills, but for the most part when you see someone with a 50 or higher then that player will probably be good enough to be on an NFL roster. Players with scores of 60 or above can be decent starters if you have stronger pieces around them. Players that are 70 or above are good starting linemen. Obviously, seeing someone that is at 80 or above is probably a Pro Bowl type performer.
Shaq Mason (Trade) — 1,282 snaps, 68.2 Overall, 70.2 Pass, 62.4 Run
Mason would have led the team in snaps if he had played for the Texans. The Bucs were a better offense than the Texans offense last season. The important thing is that Mason is a better overall performer than A.J. Cann. Nick Caserio cut Cann. I might have kept Cann around in case Kenyon Green is a bust, but that’s just me. Overall, the line gets better with this one move.
Laremy Tunsil— 1,061 snaps, 80.0 Overall, 91.7 Pass, 66.2 Run
Tunsil is a Pro Bowl tackle overall and an absolutely elite pass blocker. He has his detractors and the run blocking is a part of that. Maybe he is more of a finesse guy and if the club moves to a zone blocking scheme that might end up being better for Tunsil. You want coaches using their players in a way that will emphasize what they do well and the offensive line should be no different.
Tytus Howard— 997 snaps, 67.9 Overall, 70.2 Pass, 64.5 Run
The Texans picked up his fifth year option, so they really have the whole season to evaluate whether he is a long-term piece or not. Howard has been in the league three seasons, but they have moved him around between right tackle, right guard, and left tackle. He spent most of 2022 as a right tackle and it was arguably his best season. Hopefully, they can build on that.
Scott Quessenberry— 990 snaps, 36.6 Overall, 25.8 Pass 43.7 Run
I’m not sure why they brought him back. There is no way he is the answer for the starting center spot. I have to assume they are drafting one. Quessenberry was the worst center in football last season. He wasn’t expected to be the guy. Quessenberry can play guard in addition to center. We can be mean, but he filled in when there was no one else available. Please Durga let there be someone else.
Kenyon Green— 823 snaps, 37.7 Overall, 27.0 Pass, 47.4 Run
There are multiple layers of analysis we see as it pertains to rookies. The pure surface level will note how many starters the Texans employed that were rookies or second year guys. The next level will note whether those players actually performed well. Outside of Dameon Pierce, the Texans did not have one rookie actually perform well according to PFF. Is Green really this bad or was he coached poorly a year ago? That is the ultimate question.
Charlie Heck— 162 snaps, 55.7 Overall, 74.2 Pass, 42.8 Run
Looking at these run blocking grades is a bit depressing. However, let’s focus on the pass blocking. It is rare to have three different offensive tackles produce strong pass blocking on this level. Texans quarterbacks actually enjoyed decent protection this past season. With the Laremy Tunsil extension, Heck will continue to serve as a swing tackle. He may not be a starting quality tackle overall, but you could do a lot worse as a swing tackle.
Justin McRay— 151 snaps, 41.4 Overall, 25.4 Pass, 55.4 Run
McRay ended up platooning with Green later in the season when it became clear that Green was overmatched on passing downs. McRay wasn’t good either. Getting passable protection from the other guard spot will be one of the keys to the 2023 offense. If you have consistent pressure from inside like the Texans had last season it can completely derail on offense.
Jimmy Morrisey— 57 snaps, 54.4 Overall, 67.4 Pass, 50.5 Run
Obviously, 57 snaps is not a large enough sample size to really get excited about, but Morrisey could be quality depth at center or guard. His presence made it peculiar that the club re-sighed Quessenberry. Like most backups, he shouldn’t be a starter, but he is certainly good enough to give a starter a quick breather or provide insurance.
Michael Deiter— 0 snaps, N/A Overall, N/A Pass, N/A Run
Deiter is officially listed as a center, but he can play center or guard. His best season came in 2021 when he had 546 snaps and had an overall grade of 60.6. He was slightly better as a run blocker (61.7) than as a pass blocker (57.2). Both of those grades are far superior to anything Quessenberry did last season and yet the signing feels a bit underwhelming consider the number of centers that were available. Deiter is a better placeholder but likely doesn’t alter the long-term prognosis of the position.
Getting new coaches can be exciting. There are always players that suddenly look better in the new regime than the old one. On defense, we have already discussed Derek Stingley, Jalen Pitre, and Christian Harris. Kenyon Green is that guy on offense. Maybe Bobby Slowik and his staff can unlock Green’s potential. If they are able to do that then the Texans have four-fifths of an offensive line.
If we continue with the PFF love, they also have their top 100 draft prospects listed. Luke Wypler, Joe Lippmann, and John Michael Schmitz are listed as top 100 prospects at center. Where do they go in a draft? We know that being a top 100 guy doesn’t necessarily mean you get taken in the top 100. The importance of different positions makes a difference and every team evaluates individual prospects differently. Yet, it would seem obvious that they would want to add a rookie there even with Quessenberry and Deiter in place.