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BRB GroupThink: Is This The Year Houston’s Offensive Line Breaks Out?

We’ve been here before.

NFL: NOV 21 Colts at Texans Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Does the investment match the drapes? For the Houston Texans’ offensive line, that hasn’t been the case. Despite giving up two first round picks and a second round pick to acquire Laremy Tunsil, selecting Tytus Howard in the first round, drafting Nick Martin (now gone) and Max Scharping in the second round, and paying big money for Zach Fulton, Houston’s offensive line was crappy once again last season. To address that, Nick Caserio signed Justin Britt, who hasn’t played in a year and a half, to replace Martin at center; traded for Marcus Cannon to play guard; and of course, added plenty of competition to the roster.

For this week’s GroupThinkI asked the masthead who they think will be starting on the Texans offensive line come Week One and if this is the year the offensive line is finally good. This are our responses:

MIKE BULLOCK:

Do we know how many of the linebackers have offensive line experience?

Obviously, Tunsil is cemented at the left tackle spot, as he should. Say what you will about how Houston acquired him, he’s the closest thing to Duane Brown this team has ever had.

Next up, the hope and the dream is Max Scharping rises to the occasion and solidifies the left guard spot. Hopefully new O-line coach James Campen can actually do his job, unlike his predecessor.

Justin Britt at center is an unknown commodity. Will he fit into Tim Kelly’s offensive scheme or simply be Nick Martin -2.0? Only time will tell.

Former New England Patriot Marcus Cannon will certainly get all the chances to be the guy at right guard.

That leaves us with Bill O’Easterby’s top pick from the 2019 draft, Tytus Howard at right tackle. I’d love to see Howard succeed, but haven’t seen it yet.

There’s really nothing here that convinces me this is finally the year Houston has a good o-line. But there’s nothing here to convince me anything about the 2021 Texans is good...

L4BLITZER:

Given the way that Caserio is slicing and dicing this roster at will, I can’t be sure that all of the options for the Week 1 OLine are even on the roster yet.

However, if I were to venture on the starting O-line, I figure the surest bets will be the tackles. Tunsil is arguably the best player on the roster at this point that will actually suit up and play in Week 1. Howard, barring injury, should be the man to helm the RT spot. The interior of the line...well, that is where the fun begins.

At the guard sports, the opening line would appear to be Scharping and Cannon, with Cannon the surer bet to hold a starting slot over Scharping. Cannon could also be in play for center, but I figure the opening favorite, barring injury, is Britt. When he was healthy, he was decent enough in Seattle, and that would be good enough for Houston in 2021.

This assumes that the team does not, in a fit of questionable brilliance, decide that one of the multitude of linebackers can channel the spirit of the late Chuck Bednarik and be just asgood a starting center as linebacker, never-minding that the game hasevolved substantially since Bednarik nearly killed Frank Gifford 50 years before his actual death and played both LB and C for the 1960 NFL Champion Eagles.

The wild card in all of this is the new O-line coach James Campen. The Devlin days are done, and for some, that might just be an improvement. However, we will have to see how he manages the linemen on the roster and what progress he can make, especially with the guard and center positions. Hopefully he can show a greater aptitude for player development vs. the last few seasons under Devlin. Given that Watson will not be under center (most likely), the O-line will need to significantly up its game if it hopes to improve the running game and not get the other QBs on the roster killed before Week 4.

BFD:

Sadly, in as much disarray the offensive line is in, it might be the best unit on the entire roster. Which is so. Freaking. Depressing.

Two of the biggest questions are where Tytus Howard and Marcus Cannon end up. If Cannon goes to RT, which I don’t think happens, then what happens to Howard?

I don’t know if our LG is currently on the roster. I would not be even a little surprised if Max Scharping is kicked to the curb this off-season.

So, we’re left with Tunsil - TBD - Britt - Cannon - Howard.

That’s not ideal for many reasons, but that’s also three players added to the offensive line, which means little to no coherence until later in the year.

The other big question is, what the heck are we going to run? Cannon and Howard are power guys while Tunsil and Britt are not. I don’t even know what we have with Britt considering his age and injury history.

I see no plan with this offensive line anymore than I do with the rest of the roster. It’s not Nick Caserio’s fault - this is a hangover from the disastrous reigns of Brian Gaine and Bill O’Brien at GM - but it doesn’t mean things are good in the trenches offensively.

KENNETH L.:

This is a good question. There’s a surprising amount of change that occurred this offseason on the offensive line. I wish I could say that the line improved, because there isn’t much worse it could get, but the reliance on several unproven and unknown players will make or break this group.

Very simply, the offensive line will be Tunsil-Scharping-Britt-Cannon-Howard.

Howard is coming off yet another injury and played relatively well in 2020. It’s hard not to see how he could be a Pro Bowl lineman given the right set of occurrences, but this won’t be that situation. Howard’s injuries and inability to develop a run block will severely limit his upward trajectory.

The signing of Britt is a head scratcher. I doubt he’ll be serviceable and in fact could be a thoroughly incompetent. Justin Britt has the capability to be a much better player than Nick Martin, but he’s coming off a devastating injury and is well into his career.

The signing of Cannon hopefully will be the best of the offseason. I’m hoping he slides into this left guard role and supports two healing bodies on both sides.