KC Joyner, an NFL Insider for ESPN.com, offers an interesting look at the Texans on the *New York Times *NFL Blog "The Fifth Down." Using statistical analysis as his primary criteria, Joyner analyzes Texans left tackle Duane Brown's rookie season, the Texans' turnover woes for the past two seasons (with an emphasis on quarterback play) and potential reasons for improvement in the Texans' defense this season.
Joyner is less than impressed with Brown both as a pass-blocker and run-blocker, and uses his statistics to suggest that the first-round pick didn't get all that much better as his rookie season progressed. Joyner's data shouldn't be easily discounted, but I feel compelled to point out that Texans coaches and players have said consistently that Brown did improve. As an indicator of their increasing confidence in Brown, the team curtailed its practice of rotating in veteran Ephraim Salaam for him on every fourth series in the latter parts of the season.
Alex Gibbs views Brown as an ideal fit for his zone blocking scheme, and Gibbs' vote of confidence surely ought to count for something given his coaching résumé. His scheme requires linemen to be athletic, nimble and able to get to the second level. Brown played basketball in high school and was a converted tight end at Virginia Tech. And he lost 12-15 pounds this offseason, reporting to OTAs at 313 pounds, which head coach Gary Kubiak believes will help him next season. Those factors point to continued improvement for Brown as he enters his second year in the league.