Over Labor Day weekend, the Texans pulled off a series of astonishing moves to re-revamp the offensive line and remove much of the dead weight that had been lounging around the Texans’ offensive line room. As stubborn as it seemed they were being, especially when head coach Bill O’Brien faced the media in defense of Matt Kalil, the Texans were far from satisfied with the current status of the front five. Although it seemed the Texans were resigned to another season in which their line led the league in surrendering sacks, the Texans’ pseudo-front office was far from throwing in the towel.
Martinas Rankin, a 2018 third round pick that Matt Weston was particularly high on, was shipped to Kansas City for RB Carlos Hyde. Both teams appeared to be in the process of releasing their respective players but came to an agreement to swap players who had no future in their current homes.
Drafted for his versatility across the offensive line, Rankin struggled to find a role with the Texans. After a subpar rookie season, it was hoped he’d be the starting left guard for the Texans in 2019. While Rankin showed promise at that position against the Eagles in Week 16, he had fallen down the depth chart in training camp due to Tytus Howard moving inside to left guard and Rankin’s own inability to fend off veteran Senio Kelemete.
Rankin will soon become a figment of your imagination. A thought you can’t remember. A soft whisper in the wind...or he is proof that offensive line coach Mike Devlin truly cannot teach the position, and Rankin will succeed in Kansas City. As you’ve seen by Houston’s acquisitions of Jeff Allen and Zach Fulton, that franchise knows how to build linemen.
It’s truly hard to see a team pull the plug on a player that was drafted only a year ago. Players have so much room to grow in their second year that it’s rare for a team to flat out give up on a guy picked in the first three rounds. However, with the state of the Texans’ offensive line, the potential of the Deshaun Watson, and the arrivals of both Tytus Howard and Max Scharping, there was not room nor time to keep Rankin on the roster.
Next, in the wake of the Jadeveon Clowney trade, the Texans made a move to improve the offensive line by acquiring Laremy Tunsil from Miami. While the Texans undoubtedly mortgaged the future to acquire their left tackle of the present and future, it also closed the book on Julie’n Davenport’s time in Houston.
Like a rider bill passing through the Senate, the Texans snuck Davenport into the terms and conditions of the trade for Tunsil so sneakily so that no one has talked about Davenport’s departure. Last year’s starting left tackle was almost certainly going to get cut from the roster, so the Texans included him in the trade to Miami to sweeten an already sugar-rushed deal. The Texans put a lot on Davenport’s plate in his second year in the league, but that was to be expected once the Texans traded Duane Brown to Seattle in 2017.
Davenport’s greatest fault was a lack of agility and footwork. Fast defensive ends could swiftly run around him without much disruption. He also provided next to nothing in the run game. One of Tunsil’s greatest strengths is his ability to move and drive opponents off the line of scrimmage. Davenport was a net negative in the run game. With the Texans’ zone scheme, having a tackle who can move in a hurry is often more valuable than the running back carrying the ball.
Davenport’s departure signals the latest sign of the Texans’ failure to develop offensive line prospects. Even when his position was the number one priority of the entire offseason, the Texans could not turn Davenport into a player. With Davenport gone, Roderick Johnson or Howard could conceivably work as the backup left tackle in the event Tunsil goes down.
The last major move the Texans made on the offensive line was in releasing supposed starting left tackle Matt Kalil. Kalil was a washed-up project that Brain Gaine took a shot at in an attempt to moneyball his way to an offensive line, part of a string of one-year deals that Gaine engineered this past offseason.
The former USC Trojan and fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft has been plagued by injuries over the last few seasons. When reports and headlines from Texans training camp flooded Twitter decrying Kalil’s lack of speed and performance, it was a tough pill to swallow. Instead of swallowing that bitter pill, O’Brien finally spit that pill out like a sunflower seed and released Kalil in the wake of the the team’s larger roster cut down to 53 players. Though the one-year deal inherently limited the risk the Texans took, they wasted over $2 million in signing Kalil.
The Texans wasted an egregious amount of time, salary cap, draft capital, and potential on those three offensive linemen. That said, I wouldn't be surprised to see Martinas Rankin spend a couple seasons starting for the Chiefs, even though he did not look like a starting NFL lineman for the Texans.
Who do you think was the biggest bust of the preseason?