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The Value of Things: Evaluating the Texans offensive linemen

Are there any spots the Texans need to upgrade?

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more enduring things about sports is the notion of the narrative. In the sports world it is something we say over and over again until it takes on a life of its own. Some of these are positive narratives and some are negative. The Dallas Cowboys choking or Dak Prescott shrinking in the big game has become a narrative. The same is true with Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen.

One of the things that we teach our English students is that emotional appeals are often the most powerful ones. These narratives are often based on feelings and we can’t let facts get in the way of your feelings. Some of these narratives are unavoidable. The aforementioned Cowboys haven’t advanced to an NFC championship game this century. Obviously, there are strong feelings there, but it is also a fact that it is hard to ignore.

For the Houston Texans, the overwhelming narrative has long been that the offensive line sucks. It’s like a bad shopping cart that pulls to the right no matter which way it’s facing. No matter who it is doing the blocking they are labeled as bad. Certainly, there is always some truth to the narrative, but it is also true that the Texans invested more capital in their offensive line than any other unit.

The problem with evaluating linemen is that there are few concrete numbers we can point to. Yes, there are sacks, pressures, and rushing yards per attempt but even those numbers have all kinds of other factors that get involved. We do have PFF grades 60 seems to be the line of demarcation on those numbers. Anything below 60 is problematic, Anything above 60 is at least passable with 70 and 80 as lines of being a solid starter or potential all-pro. In particular, we want to note the difference between their run blocking pass blocking numbers.

RG Shaq Mason

Snaps: 1,201
PFF Run Blocking: 65.8
PFF Pass Blocking: 64.7

Mason represents something of an enigma and a symbol for this offensive line. He was durable and better in run blocking. Those are two things literally no one else on the line could say. Yet, these numbers indicate he was solid and not great. Still, he is paid like he is good. Both Tytus Howard and Laremy Tunsil (who we will get to later) are also highly paid. Somehow, improvement will have to come from somewhere and I’m not sure this will be one of those slots.

RT George Fant

Snaps: 1,004
PFF Run Blocking: 51.9
PFF Pass Blocking: 68.4

Fant was signed to be a swing tackle, so these numbers have to be taken in that context. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Fant was the best free agent signing that Nick Caserio made, but he is probably in the top five. Like most of those guys, he was a one year contract guy. Like most of those guys, he is great in the role he was originally cast in, but it will be a question of money and opportunity moving forward. Does he see himself as more than a swing tackle?

LT Laremy Tunsil

Snaps: 965
PFF Run Blocking: 66.7
PFF Pass Blocking: 84.9

As I write this, the Texans have just been penalized five yards for a false start. Okay, I kid because I care. There is never an opportune time to get flagged pre-snap, but Tunsil was more responsible than most for these. Tunsil is quick off the ball. It is one of the reasons he is an elite pass blocker, but it probably draws an extra two or three flags over the course of the season. He is a perennial Pro Bowl guy, so he should get paid. The question is whether that pay warrants everything he brings to the table. Tunsil is okay as a run blocker, but he will likely never be good. He is an elite pass protector. Is that good enough for this offense?

C Michael Deiter

Snaps: 781
PFF Run Blocking: 55.2
PFF Pass Blocking: 59.4

Like Fant, you have to look at Deiter through the prism that he was signed for. He was not supposed to be the starting center. That was three or four guys ago depending on how you view the position. He was better than Scott Quessenberry (who may or may not have been the original starter) but then again just about everyone in the league was better than Quessenberry. He was a one-year contract guy. As someone that can play center or guard in a pinch he can be quite valuable, but if he is getting the bulk of the snaps anywhere on the line it could be a very long day for everyone involved.

LG Juice Scruggs

Snaps: 584
Run Blocking: 50.8
Pass Blocking: 49.6

There are any number of ways to look at Scruggs’ season this past year. You could say that he played out of position because of injuries to himself and others. You could say that his hamstring injury really derailed his season and he should be better with a healthy offseason working on things in the building. You could also look at the second round placement and wonder why this team can’t seem to get it right upfront. All of these things can be true at the same time. It is impossible to ignore that the performance simply wasn’t there this year. I’m willing to give him a pass, but it has to get better or this is another wasted pick.

C Jarrett Patterson

Snaps: 454
PFF Run Blocking: 62.9
PFF Pass Blocking: 53.7

The story of the 2023 season will be how the Texans offensive line was blown up from the start. Patterson was technically the third starting center after Quessenberry and Juice Scruggs. He performed admirably under those conditions. He was one of two regular linemen better on run plays than passing plays. The job might end up being his next season depending on what the Texans do in free agency and the draft. If we see reasonable growth from year one to year two he might end up being at least average as a starting center.

LG Tytus Howard

Snaps: 408
PFF Run Blocking: 49.6
PFF Pass Blocking: 38.9

For the love of everything holy, please stop moving this guy to guard. This is two different regimes that have tried this and it has blown up in their face each time. He is a solid right tackle. He is probably a little better than George Fant overall and I understand the concept of putting the best five guys on the field at the same time, but you can find a better left guard anywhere. You are paying this guy a ton of money. Put him where he will perform the best and that is absolutely as the right tackle.

T Charlie Heck

Snaps: 253
PFF Run Blocking; 56.3
PFF Pass Blocking: 39.3

Whether a draft pick is good or not always depends on your definition of success. Heck has played a good amount of snaps each season as a mid-round selection. I can’t argue with people that take that as a measure of success. Others would ask whether they have been good snaps and that is an entirely different question. Like most of the other backups, he has value as a guy you can throw in when no one else is available. He is relatively cheap and that is another check in his favor, but if he is your swing tackle you better pray your starters stay healthy.

T/G Josh Jones

Snaps: 233
PFF Run Blocking: 52.2
PFF Pass Blocking: 55.8

Jones was a starting tackle for the Arizona Cardinals and came here after training camp when Caserio tried to cobble together a working offensive line. He didn’t perform well, but that also could be blamed on having to learn a new offense in short order. Both Jones and Heck saw their rookie deals expire this past season. Jones may have a chance to be a good swing tackle with a full offseason in the building learning the offense. Like with everything else, it will be a question of price.

G Kendrick Green

Snaps: 208
PFF Run Blocking: 56.3
PFF Pass Blocking: 69.9

Like Jones, Green was a late addition when linemen started dropping like flies. He has one more year on his rookie deal, so there is no reason to do anything with him. He actually played admirably as a guard until he himself was also hurt. Like most of the other guys, he shouldn’t be a starter, but he could be a spot starter in the right circumstances.

LG Kenyon Green

No snaps

Green is the poster child for blown draft picks on the offensive line. There has been radio silence on his recovery from his various injuries. There were also personal concerns. We have no idea what is going on there either. Let’s assume the best and assume he is physically and mentally healthy. From there it is a question of whether he will translate whatever physical ability he has into actual performance. I’m sure they are hoping for the best, but they have to have a good backup plan in case he isn’t better.