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Value of Things: Houston Texans Roster Jigsaw— Defensive Line

Could the Texans use another edge defender?

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

The Texans obviously committed premium draft capital and future assets to the defensive line in the offseason and draft. In short, we could have called the 2022 defensive line was likely the weakest unit on the team. A number of players were added, but it will remain to be seen whether they have enough or if more is needed to make this a strong unit.

There were bright spots last season. Jerry Hughes turned in a nice season and the team employed a group of defensive ends that were solid enough on their own. They just didn’t have that one dominant guy. Hopefully that’s Will Anderson. The team could still add a strong defender into the rotation. As we have with the other positions, we will utilize PFF scores and snap counts. Rookies will be in bold.

  • Any PFF Score above 80 indicates a Pro Bowl performer or college All-American
  • Any PFF Score between 70 and 80 indicates a solid starter in the NFL or college
  • Any PFF score between 60 and 70 indicates a fringe starter or solid rotational player
  • Any PFF score under 60 indicates a depth piece or special teams performer

Defensive Ends

Jerry Hughes— 71.4 PFF, 689 snaps

The dude is a Horned Frog. As much as I love my Frogs, he is not quite a Hall of Famer, but will be in the Hall of Very Good. He is entering his 14th season. I just don’t know how much he has in the tank and given the current state of defensive ends, they really need him to be productive.

Jonathan Greenard— 63.4 PFF, 284 snaps

Greenard is by far the most successful pick from the 2020 draft and if you need any reason why the team is in the predicament that it’s in then that little nugget needs to be repeated. Greenard has been productive when healthy, but in three years he has not been consistently healthy. If he doesn’t turn in a productive season he will become an NFL sojourner looking for another opportunity.

Jacob Martin— 65.1 PFF, 261 snaps

All that is old is new again. I actually liked this pick up. Martin has never put up great numbers, but he seems to apply consistent pressure and he more than makes up for the loss of guys like Mario Addison and Rasheem Green. He’s not a huge impact guy, but he is definitely worthy of being a respectable player.

Chase Winovich— 61.1 PFF, 178 snaps

This signing just doesn’t blow your skirt up. He’s like the Rasheem Greens and Mario Addisons of the world. He’s a nice depth piece I suppose but you really hope you don’t see a whole heck of a lot from him. He has made some plays over the years, but they have been few and far between.

Demone Harris— 49.5 PFF, 62 snaps

You need camp bodies. You need guys that will be able to make the offensive tackles feel good about themselves. You need guys that can hopefully push the rookies to get their act together. We all seriously doubt that Harris will be anywhere near the final roster when September rolls around.

Dylan Horton— 75.9 PFF, 733 snaps

Man this team loves their Horned Frogs. Horton came over to TCU with Sonny Dykes, so most people in Fort Worth aren’t too familiar with him. He came on late in the season when he finally found his niche as a defensive end as opposed to an outside linebacker. If he is better than Winovich and Harris then he will stick.

Will Anderson Jr— 83.6 PFF, 684 snaps

Believe it or not, his grade was even higher in 2021. Many are expecting Defensive Rookie of the Year kind of production. That seems unfair, so let’s just see how this thing goes. I will take a three down defensive end that can play the run and rush the passer well. Anything beyond that is gravy at this point.

Ali Gaye— 63.0 PFF, 533 snaps

Caserio seems to like guys from big programs. It makes sense as you can imagine that they went one on one with more future pros than guys in the mid major conferences. Goye was an undrafted free agent, so nothing is expected. If he ends up beating out some veterans then it’s a bonus.

Defensive Tackles

Maliek Collins— 65.4 PFF, 601 snaps

Collins is a plus pass rusher from the inside. He is so-so as a run defender. In a perfect world he would come in on third down or when the team is ahead and just wreak havoc. The Texans haven’t existed in a perfect world since 2019. Hopefully, he can do more of that this year.

Sheldon Rankin— 73.1 PFF, 558 snaps

Given what the rest of the tackles look like, this was by far the most important signing of the offseason. Rankin is not a Pro Bowl tackle, but he capable of playing the run and the pass. If he is healthy then this defense has a chance to be no worse than average. He is that important to what this team will want to do.

Roy Lopez— 52.7 PFF, 557 snaps

He was a 6th round pick. We have to remember that when looking at performance. Simply put, he shouldn’t have been counted on to be a starting quality tackle. He still has a chance to improve and be a key rotational piece but the fact that he was out there as often as he was, was an indication of how bad last year’s defense was.

Kurt Hinish— 49.5 PFF, 435 snaps

There are undrafted free agents that play a lot because 32 teams missed on the guy on draft day. A.J. Bouye comes to mind. Then there are guys that play a lot because there’s just no one else. Hinish isn’t to blame because he wasn’t good enough. You never blame the athlete as long as they are making a full effort. You blame those that put him in a position where he was counted on to play good football.

Hassan Ridgeway— 58.8 PFF, 285 snaps

There are some sample size problems here. 45 snaps is barely three quarters of one game. Ridgeway had been solid before 2022 when he was healthier. If he is healthy then he easily supplants every tackle that was on the roster last year. He has never been a Pro Bowl level defender, but he turned in really good seasons in 2018 and 2020 and he knows Ryans’ system.

Bryan Cowart— 30.4 PFF, 229 snaps

Wow. This is really underwhelming. If he makes the team in September something has gone horribly wrong.

Thomas Booker— 35.5 PFF, 206 snaps

People that wonder why the Texans surrendered the most rushing yards in the NFL last season should look really hard at their defensive tackles and linebackers. It was a festival of sadness. Rookies often struggle, so there is still some hope here, but this is yet another sign of how much this unit needs to improve.

The Final Verdict

This group more than any other group reflects Caserio’s governing philosophy. He is a quantity over quality guy. It makes sense, no team makes it through a season completely healthy and the more lottery tickets