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Texans Rookie Dylan Horton’s Complicated Path To Make The Roster

Horton hears a Houston.

NFL: Houston Texans Rookie Minicamp Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans are mediocrely stacked at the defensive end position. The combination of rookies and veterans in this group make it among the most important and enticing on the team.

Houston’s fourth round pick Dylan Horton will enter this competition facing a steep climb just to make the roster. The Frisco, Texas product had a coming out party in 2022 with 10.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in his senior season at TCU. His incredible year propelled him from an unknown commodity to one of the most dominant ends in the Big 12. All these accolades mean nothing once training camp kicks off in a few weeks.

On a 53-man roster, there tends to be 7-10 defensive lineman. Of those, 3 to 4 will be for defensive tackles, which leaves 4-6 open positions for defensive ends. Those precious few slots appear to be mostly snapped up by a host of deserved players.

Third overall pick Will Anderson Jr. is an auto-roster spot. Fourth year DE Jonathan Greenard is all-in as his contract will be up at the end of the season. Veteran Jerry Hughes was the most valuable player on the defense and put together his best season since 2014.

Horton’s main competition will be with two free agents Chase Winovich and Jacob Martin. Both of these players are looking to regain their former quality with their last change of staying in the league. Winovich and Martin are pure edge rushers with technical moves frankly above Horton’s level. Their downfall will be either their ongoing injury concerns and/or Father Time slowing them down in comparison to the long-term potential Horton possesses.

Horton, a pass rush specialist in his own right, simply can’t rely on that to succeed; he must improve his run-stopping abilities to warrant a roster spot. There’s simply not enough room on a team for three players with the exact same skillset. His is most similar to Charles Omenihu, who struggled to find a fit with the Texans but flourished in DeMeco Ryan’s defense in San Francisco.

Texans fans are well aware that Roy Lopez and Maliek Collins struggled mightily last year to rush the passer from the interior. Horton’s 6’4” frame provides him the opportunity to slide inside on third down and rush the passer on obvious passing downs. However, Horton produced most when rushing from the outside at TCU. His lack of physicality at the point of contact blunts his speed when rushing between the tackles.

Late round picks always have an uphill battle finding their place on a team. Houston does have success developing your defensive talent. Horton could not come at a better time under new head coach DeMeco Ryans to take full advantage of his opportunity at the NFL level.