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The Film Room: Roderick Johnson’s First Start At Right Tackle

Dive in, Texans fans.

NFL: Preseason-Detroit Lions at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

When it was announced third year offensive tackle Roderick Johnson would start yesterday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, it was another sign of the discontent with the status quo on Houston’s offensive line. Considering Texans’ second-round draft pick Max Scharping is a right tackle by trade, starting Johnson over the rookie demonstrates the team’s trust in Johnson over the multitude of other options.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle conveyed head coach Bill O’Brien’s confidence in Johnson earlier this week by saying “We felt like he earned the start. He had a good training camp, had a good week of practice here. We felt like he had earned the opportunity to start.”

Johnson was claimed off of waivers from the Cleveland Browns last June and has been a project for Texans’ offensive line coach Mike Devlin since then. At 6’6” and 306 pounds, Johnson has the prototypical build for a right tackle, but lacked the footwork and technique when entering the league. After being placed on the practice squad twice with the Texans, Johnson was prepared to finally step into his starting role with the Texans.

Though he was responsible for giving Deshaun Watson some bruises that will be pretty sore today, I didn’t notice Johnson give up a single sack during the game. Just typing that gives me hope of improvement. The right tackle position is becoming as equally important as left, so it’s imperative that Johnson locks down the right tackle position if he can keep it.

Johnson (#63) did a good job of staying with his block on run plays. That was something Julie’n Davenport struggled with when he was with the team. It’s actually much more of an art than at first glance because the lineman truly has no idea where the running back is.

Johnson’s ability to stay with the defender, who can clearly see the running back, shows quick feet and quick reaction time to the defender’s movement. On this play, Johnson does a grand job of staying connected with his defensive lineman. He also keeps pace with the rest of the zone block, which former Texans Martinas Rankin could never consistently do. If Johnson maintains his block but does not move right with the rest of the offensive line, the defense is able to pursue the runner freely.

Speed around the edge seems to be Johnson’s first initial weakness. When an elite pass rusher like what Jags’ rookie DE Josh Allen will become had a good step off the snap, Johnson struggled to reset and impede the pass rusher. Though Johnson did perform well overall, we’ve got to discuss where he can grow and how some of his poor performance directly affected some of the game’s biggest plays.

On this pass on 3rd and 9, Johnson gets overwhelmed by pressure. Clearly seen at right tackle, Allen is able to push through Johnson by outleveraging him and hitting Deshaun Watson. This is a straight one-on-one drill and Johnson lost this rep. If Johnson is able to move his feet faster to curtail Allen’s pass rush, Watson can step into this throw to Will Fuller and deliver a bomb to move the chains.

The two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference tackle is at fault for Watson’s errant throw here. He allows the defensive lineman to freely smash into Watson because he was out of position. You can see Johnson trying to maintain his technique and put some type of pressure on the defensive lineman, but in this instance, Johnson should have opted for desperation instead of technique in order to save Watson from another hit.

Yes, Roderick Johnson has a long way to go, but you have to agree that the way Seantrel Henderson played last week was unacceptable and if you rewatch yesterday’s game, Johnson deserves to get the start this week against the Chargers. Though the Texans still surrendered four sacks to the Jags, starting Johnson and his solid performance has to be a sign of good things to come for the Texans and their offensive line.