The Houston Texans have all the answers for the offensive center position, but none of the right ones. They have amassed a hodgepodge of feeble options to fill the role at center.
Taking the Santa Anna at the Alamo approach, Nick Caserio has adeptly planned to throw endless bodies at the offensive center position until the problem is solved. There are five options. They go by the names of...
Scott Quesenberry, “no, you’re thinking of his brother”
Jimmy Morrissey, “the filler”
Juice Scruggs, “the squeeze”
Jarrett Patterson, “another one” (said in DJ Khaled’s voice)
Michael Dieter, “the old but new guy”
Sure, here at Battle Red Blog we are all for healthy competition; a little training camp battle here or there is good for the soul. It wasn’t long ago when Bill O’Brien beckoned for competition above all else down the halls of NRG. So we shouldn’t be surprised by Caserio, who comes from the New England guild of ex-Belichick-ian laborers, choosing an even competition above a better, simple solution.
The competition appears to already be underway as first glimpses of OTAs indicate who’s under who on the roster and under center (that’s a QB-center double-entendre in case you missed it).
#Texans have Michael Deiter (#63), and the rookies Jarrett Patterson (#68) & Juice Scruggs (#70) as the centers working with the QB.— Jair Lopez (@TXNFootball) May 23, 2023
Houston also have Morrissey & Quessenberry as C options on the 90 man roster. https://t.co/25O0F2y0PG
In case you’re wondering who’s taking snaps with rookie C.J. Stroud, that’s none other than our new versatile free agent signing Michael Deiter. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves...
To set the stage, Houston has been abysmal at running the ball the past two years with efficiency ratings so poor that I refuse to exert the effort to try to break PFF’s paywall to validate my point. All you need to know is this will be Houston’s fourth offensive line coach in as many years. Regardless of scheme, health, QB, or general logic, the interior of the offensive line is ineptly pernicious.
The team’s five options at center all have one thing in common: versatility. After that, they run the gamut of the “NFL experience”.
Let’s start with the obvious choices: Houston drafted Juice Scruggs and Jarrett Patterson in last April’s draft as a clear line in the sand. Both of these players have better pedigree, higher upside, and more talent than the two incumbents Jimmy Morrissey and Scott Quessenberry. Quessenberry, whose brother David briefly played for the Texans as a tackle, was possibly the worst center in franchise history. He only assumed the role after Justin Britt failed to return to the team after playing only one game last season.
Houston received thorough criticism when trading up to select Scruggs. Many analysts had him going in the third day of the draft. In my humble opinion, when first-choice John Michael Schmitz was selected at the end of the second round, they panicked and shelled out draft capital to secure who they assumed as the next best guy. Now Houston has to make good immediately on this pick to justify the selection. It’s not a great sign when your next in line for the starting role was welcomed with a resounding head scratch from the draft analysis community.
Houston then turned around and selected Jarrett Patterson. I even had Houston selecting him in the third round of my own mock draft. He lacks the ideal length, but when it comes to a cerebral commander of the offense Patterson is a treasure to have on this roster.
What’s so peculiar about doubling down on center is the fact that Houston already partially addressed the position in free agency by signing Michael Deiter.
Like a low-budget film director, Houston will have to make due with what’s been assembled. Deiter was one of those cheap options. He played both guard and center for Miami (hence the nickname old but new guy) in what can only be described as a tumultuous experience.
Most QB Hits allowed in a single season over last 5 years— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) May 2, 2022
Jalen Mayfield 23 (2021)
Michael Deiter 17 (2019)
Alex Leatherwood 17 (2021)
5 players tied 15 pic.twitter.com/CX96R8kVaJ
Deiter received the ire of Miami’s fanbase for being one of the ineffective constants on a poor offensive line. He feels like another Nick Martin-esque player; probably fantastic in the film room and on the white board, but overwhelmed on the field. Deiter’s second chance will come sooner rather than later as he’s in contention for multiple roster spots on the offensive line.
As for the two roster hold overs, it will be tough sledding to say the least. A new coaching staff means no loyalty. It also means the scheme and playbook will be different, which brings the knowledge gap to a near zero. Coaches always prefer “their guys” and will always been more lenient with rookies too. With so much adversity facing Morrissey and Quessenberry, they’re more likely to be cut from the roster than win back their roles.
The Texans have a lot of work ahead of them to unravel this cacophony of center options all while trying to develop a new rookie QB. If you had to ask, I think Scruggs will win the job short term, but Patterson and his 18th percentile arms is the Texans center of the future. Just you wait.