Despite missing the first four games of the 2016 season, Duane Brown still observed practice. He rarely missed a meeting, according to head coach Bill O'Brien, unless it was for a doctor's appointment to follow up on his rehab. The starting left tackle didn't allow his quadriceps injury to keep him from being a leader off the field and in meetings.
The longest-tenured Texan made his much-anticipated return to the starting lineup on Oct. 9 at Minnesota. Fast forward a month later and Brown is as close to 100 percent as he has been all year. He started and played every snap for the next three games against Indianapolis, Denver, and Detroit.
"Having Duane back has been very important," O'Brien said Monday. "We've dealt with a lot of injuries, no doubt about it when you look at it. He's a guy that missed the first part of the season, but then when he came back you could see improvement in the running game and you could see improvement in the pass protection."
Against the Vikings, Brown was on a snap count, but ended up playing more than expected when right guard Jeff Allen left the game with a concussion and missed most of the second half. Swing tackle Chris Clark took over at right tackle, while Derek Newton slid over to guard. Brown would play out the rest of the game against Minnesota and every snap in the weeks that followed.
In the Week 8 win over Detroit, the Texans rushed for 105 yards, with 76 net yards in the fourth quarter. O'Brien described Brown's run blocking at the end of the game as "very valuable."
"Yeah, I felt good," Brown said. "I think in those kinds of games, when you know you have to run the ball and the games on our shoulders up front, it's a great feeling to go out there and punctuate those wins with first downs on the ground and kind of win the game the way we wanted to. But that was, for me, the best that I've felt up to this point, which is very positive and an encouraging feeling going forward."
LT Duane Brown's time as a Texan and Virginia Tech Hokie is chronicled here in photos.