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Texans new defensive line the focal point of Sunday’s game against the Ravens

Stopping the run is the best way to starting 2023.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

It was almost three years ago to the day since the last time the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans faced off. In that game, Baltimore racked up 230 yards on the ground and exposed Houston’s porous run defense, which would go on to be the worst in the league in almost every statistical category.

Much has changed since that infamous 2020 team. Houston has just two defensive players left from that team: Jonathan Greenard and Eric Murray. Baltimore on the other hand will look relatively familiar. Baltimore enters the contest with a healthy Lamar Jackson, RB J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards, all three of which were devastatingly effective back in 2020. Even last year, the Ravens offense was second in rushing yards and rushing yards per game. When Baltimore’s run game is thriving, they’re among the most formidable teams in the entire league.

Greenard and his new compatriots across the defensive line will be tasked at blunting the Ravens’ sharp run game. Houston will head into the matchup with a starting defensive front of DE Jonathan Greenard, DT Sheldon Rankins, DT Maliek Collins, and third overall pick DE Will Anderson Jr.

The group comprises of seasoned veterans and a potential Pro Bowler in Anderson Jr. Anderson will be starting in his first game and the immediate hype surrounding his progressions into the NFL.

Confidence levels aren’t exactly sky high with this bunch considering their preseason performances thus far, but if they are able to stall the Ravens offensive line and let the new linebackers roam free, Houston might have a chance and pulling off the Week One upset.

The biggest wrinkle in the Ravens’ plan will be their left side of the offensive line. They roll out two vets; Morgan Moses and Kevin Zeitler. Both are 32 and 33 years old respectively. Both are amongst the most respected in the league, particularly Zeitler. However, neither are necessarily fast or athletic lineman. Rookies Anderson and Dylan Horton must use their speed to break down the line of scrimmage and disrupt the blocking lanes.

Horton, a fourth round pick from TCU, will be the front runner for third downs and pass rushing. Houston only decided to keep four defensive lineman and chose Horton over veterans such as Jacob Martin, Chase Winovich, and Derek Rivers. He must have impressed enough in camp to earn a roster spot and no other depth pieces behind him.

Horton will be paired alongside the defensive MVP last year Jerry Hughes. Hughes, 12 years the senior to Horton, had one of the best seasons of his 13-year career in 2022. His nine sacks led the team and was a personal best since 2014. Hughes and Horton will be rotational pass rushing specialists to start the season with the chance to earn a greater role.

It’s projected that Houston possess one of the worst run defenses in the league. The new defensive staff let go of last year’s starter Roy Lopez along with 2022 draft pick Thomas Booker in training camp. They have injected several new faces alongside the few quality vets left on the roster. It will be up to this bunch to defend against Baltimore’s talented run offense and secure Houston’s first win of the 2023 season.