Angelo Blackson stepping up big on defense, special teams

When the Houston Texans called, Angelo Blackson was a player on the New England Patriots practice squad. Blackson, a 2015 fourth-round pick for the Tennessee Titans, had confidence in his strength and his ability to contribute when he arrived in Houston.

"The work ethic, being able to go out practice, and disrupt practice, and destroy starting offensive lineman, there was confidence in that," Blackson said. "I just had to work extremely hard, and however it would shake out is how it was going to be. And I did my best and that's all that matters."

Blackson quietly stepped in that year and saw action in nine games with one start.

Fast forward two years later and Blackson is now a full-time starter on Houston's defensive line. In 14 starts this season, he's recorded 19 tackles (11 solo), two tackles for loss and one quarterback hit. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel liked the size of the 6-4, 319-pound defensive end, as well as his work ethic. Blackson came in, learned the system and took advantage of his opportunities. When his productivity on the field increased, so did Blackson's playing time.  

"He can win at the line of scrimmage," Crennel said. "Basically, you have to be able to win at the line of scrimmage, particularly one-on-one, in our scheme. Then if you get double teamed, you have to be able to stay at the line of scrimmage versus double teams, and he has enough size and bulk that he can stay at the line of scrimmage when his technique is right."

A member of the "Lunch Pail Crew," a nickname the interior defensive linemen have given themselves because of their blue-collar, hardworking mindset, Blackson doesn't usually make the highlight reel with his role of taking on double teams or being stout in the run game.

But special teams highlights are a different story.

In back-to-back weeks, Blackson has blocked a field goal in games decided by exactly three points. On December 15, he blocked Tennessee Titans' kicker Ryan Succop's attempt in the first quarter. The Texans won 24-21. In Week 16 at Tampa Bay, Blackson had an encore performance, blocking a 54-yard field goal attempt by Bucs' kicker Matt Gay in the first quarter. During his college career at Auburn, Blackson blocked four kicks including field goals, an extra point attempt and a punt.

"He does a good job," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's got the skillset to do that. He's really strong, so he can really get himself into the backfield on takeoff, and then he's got the length to be able to rise up and block it. To do that two weeks in a row, that's very, very good."

The Texans clinched the AFC South title with their 23-20 win over the Buccaneers and Blackson became the first player in the NFL to block two field goal attempts this season. He was also named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week following the Texans win over the Titans.

Houston will host the Titans in the 2019 regular season finale. Sunday's kickoff has been moved to 3:25 p.m. CT and will air on CBS and SportsRadio 610.

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