READ: Running Backs
READ: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
2013 Offensive Line recap
Rushing offense (20th) - 108.9 ypg
Passing offense (15th) - 238.3 ypg
42 sacks allowed (16th)
113 QB hits (2nd worst)
Key offseason additions: None
Key offseason losses: None
UFA: G Wade Smith, T Ryan Harris
4th (135 - Compensatory - pick cannot be moved)
6th (181 - from Oakland, in the Schaub deal, CAN be moved)
6th (211 - Compensatory - pick cannot be moved)
7th (256 - Compensatory - pick cannot be moved)
2013 won’t go down in the annals of history as one of the great years for the Texans offensive line; that’s inarguable. However, the building blocks to turn this group back into one of the top offensive lines in the NFL are present. It just needs a bit of home improvement, if you will. A coaching change typically forces a paradigm shift for all position groups, but no position group will undergo a more significant shift than the OL. The change from Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme to Bill O’Brien’s multiple run looks will alter nearly everything pertaining to the offensive line going forward.
For this offensive line, the major questions are at left guard and right tackle. Left guard Smith was one of the best free agent signings this team ever had, but the tank is empty. Right tackle Newton struggled there in his third year and there must be significant competition at that spot. Had 2013 draft picks Quessenberry and Williams not been injured, they would’ve seen time at left guard and right tackle, respectively. Those two return after rookie seasons spent on IR and should push for starting spots. Their return won’t be enough to make this group whole, as this unit needs either a starter, starters (plural) and/or additional quality depth behind the starting quintet.
Unlike running back, wide receiver and tight end, the offensive line is a priority early in this draft, perhaps as early as the first round in a trade down scenario. Any round is truly fair game to select an offensive linemen, especially with eleven picks (and perhaps more) in the Texans stead.
1st - T Greg Robinson - Auburn, T/C Jake Matthews - Texas A&M
2nd - T/G Xavier Su’a Filo - UCLA, T/G Joel Bitonio - Nevada
3rd - G Trai Turner - LSU, T/G Jack Mewhort - Ohio State, T/G Billy Turner - North Dakota State
4th - T Cameron Fleming - Stanford, T/G/C Wesley Johnson - Vanderbilt, T/G Dakota Dozier - Furman, G Jon Halapio - Florida
5th - T/G Matt Patchan - Boston College, G John Urschel - Penn State
6th - T Laurent Duvernay-Tardif - McGill (Canada), G Kevin Danser - Stanford, G Kadeem Edwards - Tennessee State
7th - G Trey Hopkins - Texas
UDFA - G Kevin Pamphile - Purdue
The key for most of the linemen mentioned above is versatility and/or the ability to drive defenders off the ball. The zone blocking scheme valued quickness to be able to guide defenders where they wanted to go, not so much the power to drive defenders off the ball to establish gaps in the defense. The fact that the Texans entertained Robinson this off-season is a definite clue that this staff values power to get movement at the point of attack. The former Auburn Tiger tackle is one of the most powerful run blockers I’ve seen in a while. His pass protection skills leave a bit to be desired and his technique needs work; however, this is a 6-6, 325 pound hammer who will star in any run scheme. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where he ends up in Houston, though. The Texans, more than likely, won’t target him at number one and if the Texans work a trade down, Robinson is probably off the board by pick number four.
That said, a name familiar to most Houstonians that could be available is Matthews. Unlike Robinson, Matthews may be available in the first round with a trade down scenario. He can play up and down the line of scrimmage and the thought from some scouts in Mobile was that Matthews would be a center for some teams. That might be true in a few years, but in 2014, he’s a right tackle, having started there for three years before playing his senior year on the left side. He’s a plug and play right tackle candidate from day one in this offense.
One of the most intriguing linemen in this draft is Su’a Filo from UCLA. He started his freshman year at UCLA, then went on a Mormon mission for two years, returning 20 to 25 pounds heavier. He was a little sloppy in 2012, but he bumped out to left tackle in 2013 after a rash of injuries to the OL and had a strong season. Again, versatility being the key word, Su’a Filo is more than likely the best guard prospect on the board and perhaps as highly rated as the fifth best tackle prospect. With power and quick feet, the former Bruin can find a spot on this OL at either guard or tackle.
Bitonio shows flashes where I think he could be a top 50 prospect and other times when he’s a late day two project. He completely shut down UCLA star OLB Anthony Barr in a one-on-one tete-a-tete back in September playing left tackle. However, Boise State DE Demarcus Lawrence gave Bitonio headaches in their matchup. Then at the Senior Bowl, he was solid one day and struggled mightily with power the next. Trai Turner is young and strong, yet needs some technique work, while Billy Turner dominated lower-level competition throughout his three years at FCS three-time champ North Dakota State.
The start of day three may have some intriguing names on the board as the Texans prepare to make the 101st selection in the draft. Fleming played for a nasty, physical Stanford squad - a school that could have as many as four OL selected this May. Johnson is much better in game situations than he’ll ever be in one-on-one practice battles. He played all three positions at Vanderbilt, but should more than likely find a home at center. That said, he screams versatility, as does Furman’s Dozier who, as a left tackle, shut down Clemson star DE Vic Beasley when the two faced each other in 2012. Dozier’s body type, arm length and quickness should make him a stellar guard candidate and a solid day three draft option.
The selection of Urschel wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. In fact, once O’Brien was hired, I figured it was a lock that Urschel would end up in Houston playing for his former head coach. A math savant and one of the smartest football players on the planet, Urschel isn’t a guy that buries defenders, yet has experience in this offense and is a sound football player. But, the most intriguing name on the board is Canadian Duvernay-Tardif. Yes, I said Canadian and no, that’s not Canada, Texas. He’s got quick feet and the right dimensions to be a right tackle, but it’ll take him a year to find his way in the NFL.