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Houston Texans announce rookie 5th-round pick To’oTo’o to start against Colts

Week 2 will feature a new face in the starting defense

Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Houston Texans announced the unofficial depth chart for Week 2 of the season and slipped in a little surprise for us all.

Rookie fifth-round linebacker Henry To’oTo’o has been elevated to be a starter over LBs Jake Hansen and Blake Cashman. According to, the rookie played one third of the snaps on defense and 72 percent of the snaps on special teams in his first NFL action last weekend. His immediate impact on the defense and special teams is a fantastic sign to see out of a late round pick labeled as “Good Backup With The Potential To Develop Into Starter” by NFL’s Draft and Combine Prospect Profile.

To’oTo’o registered three tackles in his first regular season game and helped hold the Ravens defense to just 110 rushing yards. He was not on the field for two of the goal line rushing touchdowns. Schematically, he plays as the third linebacker in the box. He is a run-first defender and will be tied to the strong side of the field. That means he’ll be in charge of following the tight end in any routes. Houston did use him as one of the two main linebackers in some specific sets, but To’oTo’o is best when he’s not matched up against bigger, stronger offensive lineman. His calling card is his sure tackling, setting the edge, and sideline-to-sideline effort.

To’oTo’o is reunited with his Alabama counterpart Christian Harris who started together during the 2021 season. That team also featured Will Anderson Jr. at defensive end. Together the three stars totaled 292 tackles on the season - almost 100 total tackles each.

More from the linebacker’s bio on NFL:


Assignment-oriented linebacker whose play is steady but unspectacular. To’oTo’o is tough but lacks thump inside and doesn’t have the speed to cut off angles and stop outside run plays before they get to the corner. He’s a good technician but his play is a little more conservative than it will need to be with relatively average traits. To’oTo’o is always under control and generally where he needs to be. He’s just average in coverage and will need to become much more consistent as an open-field tackler. Good backup to below-average starter could be his career path whether he plays inside or outside.

Honestly, steady but unspectacular is right up my alley like bowling a strike. Houston doesn’t need perennial all-stars - it needs a ton of guys who can suit up and hold their own. The stars will come, but we need depth and NFL-quality talent across the roster. Finding gems in the fifth round is as good as it gets from a draft too.

To’oTo’o (which is much fairly aesthetically pleasing to type once you get it down) joins three other rookies who started last week’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens: 1st rounders QB C.J. Stroud and DE Will Anderson Jr. and 6th rounder OC Jarrett Patterson, who is in place of rookie OC Juice Scruggs. This injection of talent is much needed and should become the expectation instead of the exception to the rule for General Manager Nick Caserio & Co. throughout their tenure.