A few weeks back, I was in our sports performance cafe, looking at a salad for lunch. As I stood looking at my options, I saw this barrel-chested young man looking at the same options. I mean, this guy looked like a yoked-up linebacker and I couldn't place the face, or the body, with the name. So, I turned to someone and asked who that was, figuring it was a prospect on a visit.
"Oh, that's Tytus Howard."
Immediately, I had a flashback because I had seen that type of body before. That barrel chest. Those long, strong arms. Very little body fat, even for a 320 lb. man. I was like "dang, that dude is put together." I thought about the brief encounter when Tytus Howard's name was called on Thursday night. When the pick was made and I was talking about him on Texans Draft Night Live, it dawned on me - that was what Duane Brown looked like.
Now, I famously missed on Brown back when he was drafted and I often told him how much he, and he alone, impacted how I looked at prospects and offensive linemen in particular. I missed because I didn't see past his technique/foundation issues to see the athlete. I missed on his physique that was so impressive. I didn't/couldn't see how much Duane loved football. So thinking back to watching Tytus on film, I remembered and considered all those things. I saw the potential. I saw the athleticism. What shocked me more than anything else, though, was that he was relatively polished coming out of Alabama State.
The game that really made Howard was an early season matchup with Auburn. Alabama State went on to lose that game in ugly fashion. But, Howard, playing right tackle, won the night and that was a ticket to so much more in the 2018 season and beyond. He faced at least five different edge players in a blue jersey and kept shutting them down, one after the other. One of the things that really stuck with me as I watched him was how easily he slid up and down the arc in pass protection.
Here's a great example… this is a third-down play for Alabama State vs. Auburn. Howard is at right tackle against a stand-up rusher.
No. 1 is Big Kat Bryant (no joke, that's his name on the two-deep depth chart). He's a defensive end with some juice off the edge. It's a DEFINITIVE pass situation so off the snap, Bryant flew straight up the field.
Howard's kick slide put him in perfect position to handle Bryant.
Look here at Howard's positioning. He was in perfect athletic position. Feet shoulder-width apart. Good, sound base.
This was one of the areas where I saw many tackles in this class have issues. Other tackles allowed rushers to get to that edge in order to turn the corner to the quarterback. Now, some of them were strong enough to ride that rusher way up-field beyond the quarterback. In this situation, and many others actually as well, Howard was completely squared up with Bryant such that he had no recourse or counter to get beyond Howard.
Then, as Bryant realized that he was beyond the quarterback, he tried to slide back down his rush path and Howard just slid easily back down with him. It looked so easy, but it certainly was not.
I don't know that the still shots do it justice, but the way that Howard EASILY kick-slid away from the line of scrimmage and handled Bryant was so impressive. He's going to be thrown to the wolves right away and he'll have huge expectations as a first-round pick. But, if he follows the same path of a former first-rounder with similar traits, he'll be just fine.