2010 Path to the Draft: Offensive Line

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the Texans organization. The article is part of our 2010 Path to the Draft coverage presented by FOX Sports Houston.

With the Texans looking to improve a running game that ranked 30th in the league last season, an offensive lineman could be a consideration with one or more of the team's eight draft picks this weekend.

The Texans have clear-cut starters at left and right tackle in Duane Brown and Eric Winston. Rashad Butler, the backup to both players, re-signed with the Texans last week as a restricted free agent.

The picture is less clear along the interior. Starting guards Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel spent most of the 2009 season on injured reserve, and Pitts, an original Texan, is an unrestricted free agent who has yet to sign with a team.

Kasey Studdard is the early favorite to start at left guard in 2010, and Chris Myers will be back at center. Brisiel, Chris White and 2009 third-round pick Antoine Caldwell, who all started at right guard at some point in 2009, are also on the roster. Free agent acquisition Wade Smith will compete for a starting spot at guard and center.

Before the Texans signed Smith, owner Bob McNair voiced concern about the team's depth along the interior offensive line during a press conference in February.

"You saw what happened this past year," McNair said. "We lost our two starting guards (Pitts and Brisiel), and then of course we lost (tight end) Owen Daniels. It did affect us and it hurt us in our running game, and we certainly need to get some more depth there."

The question is whether the Texans feel they've sufficiently addressed that concern with Smith, or whether they'll look for another interior lineman – or possibly a developmental tackle – in the upcoming draft.

Analysis from the National Football PostIn an exclusive for HoustonTexans.com, Wes Bunting and Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post examine the cornerbacks group as it relates to the Texans and the 2010 draft.

Synopsis:

Without question the most underrated and underappreciated position in football, the offensive line is one place where you can never have enough depth. With more pressing needs in the secondary and at the running back position, the Houston Texans aren't likely candidates for an offensive lineman in the first round. However, that doesn't mean the team couldn't use an upgrade. While Houston only gave up 25 sacks in 2009 (28th in NFL), the Texans ranked 30th in rushing (92.2 yds/gm) and 18th in rushing touchdowns (13). Offensive tackles Duane Brown (24 years old) and Eric Winston (26) will continue to anchor the outside, meaning the Texans don't have a pressing need to draft a tackle. But they could certainly use some help inside at the guard and center positions.

Here are a few potential candidates Houston could target this weekend:

1. John Jerry, OG, Ole Miss: A king-sized lineman who played RT on the Ole Miss offense, Jerry (6-5, 328) simply lacks the athleticism to consistently reach the corner vs. speed off the edge. He showcases good lateral mobility and redirection skills for his size but lacks the quickness to hold up on the outside in the NFL. He has the makings of a physical inline guard at the next level where he can use his power and strength to maul defenders in the run game. Jerry possesses long, strong arms and powerful hands. Once he locks on in the run game, he does a great job pumping his legs and driving defenders off the ball.

2. Mitch Petrus, OG, Arkansas: A coordinated athlete who pivots out of his stance well, Petrus (6-3, 310) is very natural pulling around the line of scrimmage and reaching the second level. Possesses great body control and does a nice job breaking down in space and eliminating a moving target. Is a violent cut blocker who does a great job getting into opponents' bodies and eliminating them from the play. Showcases natural balance on slide-down blocks and makes it difficult for opposing defensive linemen to disengage. Displays the flexibility to drop his pad level in pass protection and gain initial leverage on contact. Petrus looks like an ideal starting guard in a zone-blocking scheme at the next level.

3. Matt Tennant, C, Boston College: A tall, long-armed center who plays with a good pad level in pass protection, Tennant (6-4, 300) does a nice job keeping his base down and redirecting in space. He generates good power on contact and exhibits a strong, compact punch. He does a nice job sliding laterally on contact, maintaining his balance and anchoring inside. Tennant possesses a powerful upper body and does a great job getting his hands under the chest plate of opposing linemen and locking on at the point of attack. But he does have a tendency to overextend at times and will lunge into blocks. He's an above-average athlete who does a good job getting around defenders on slide-down blocks, but he lacks the quickness to make up for a false step in pass protection.

4. Ciron Black, OG, Louisiana State: A thickly built lineman with a strong base, Black (6-4, 327) isn't real athletic and is slow to get out of his stance. Lacking the range to cleanly reach the corner, he isn't a real impressive pass blocker and has a tendency to lunge into blocks. Black, however, possesses a powerful upper body. When he latches onto a defender, he does a nice job staying on blocks. Is at his best in the run game, where he exhibits an above-average first step and can generate good power from his lower half. Black demonstrates the ability to create movement inside as an in-line run blocker, but he will eventually fall off his blocks.

SATURDAY SPECIALS (intriguing players likely to be drafted in rounds 4-7 of the draft):

1. Selvish Capers, OG, West Virginia: An above-average athlete for the position, Capers (6-4, 308) showcases good body control and fluidity in pass protection. Looks natural in space, redirects well and demonstrates the lateral mobility to mirror defenders on an island. He does a nice job extending his arms on contact, but he has a tendency to get too high and doesn't showcase much power in his punch. Gets sloppy with his footwork and bails on his kick-slide, opening up his hips to reach speed rushers off the edge. When he tries to anchor, he will get either too wide with his lower half or get too straight-legged into a block. But Capers does possess a quick recoil on his punch. He does a nice job working his hands through contact and keeping blockers away from his frame.

2. Ted Larsen, C, North Carolina State: Larsen (6-2, 304) is quick to set in the pass game and does a nice job keeping his base down and dropping his pad level on contact. He redirects well in space and has the lower body strength to anchor on contact. He showcases good athleticism in the run game and has the body control to chip at the line and reach defenders at the second level. Larsen gets stronger as the game goes on. He has the power in his lower half to get an initial punch up front. He's a good enough athlete to stay on blocks and drive his legs through contact, but he isn't long-armed and has a tendency to get overextended when trying to get into blocks. He can be sidestepped too easily inside and struggles to win initial hand battles.

For more from the National Football Post, follow *@JoeFortenbaugh and @WesBunting on Twitter.*

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