The Texans added some intriguing free agent names to the mix this offseason, and left guard Wade Smith is enthused about his new teammates. But the addition that has him particularly energized is fullback Greg Jones.
"All those moves are great moves," Smith said last Friday after a community event promoting the Houston Kids Triathlon. "Bringing in Greg Jones at fullback is a big move for us. I'm an offensive lineman, so that move directly affects us."
In 2012, Smith and the Texans' offensive line helped pave the way for running back Arian Foster, who gained 1,424 rushing yards and scored an NFL-best 17 touchdowns. Smith's work, in tandem with the rest of the offense, saw the Texans lead the League in time of possession with an average of 32:53 per game. That mark was 46 seconds better than Pittsburgh, which finished second in the NFL in that category. Now, Smith thinks the Texans have buttressed a strength with the addition of Jones.
"I think he's a heck of a blocking back," Smith said of the former Jacksonville Jaguar. "I know Maurice Jones-Drew was disappointed to lose his guy."
Jones-Drew won the 2011 rushing crown, and the three-time Pro Bowler tweeted his displeasure at seeing his blocking back defect to a Division rival. Smith compared Jones to former Texans fullback Vonta Leach, and is happy to have a similar punishing presence in the Houston backfield.
"It's kind of similar to when before Vonta left a few years back," Smith said. "Now having a bruiser fullback like that is going to help us in the run game."
Smith took his first trip to the Pro Bowl in January, and followed that up with an arthroscopic knee surgery that he termed as "a little knee scope". He said the time since his trip to Hawaii has been positive.
"The offseason has gone well," Smith said. "I've been rehabbing that and I'm feeling great. I'm working out every day and looking forward to the season coming up."
In particular, Smith is also optimistic about the potential and growth he's seen from the younger linemen on the right side in Derek Newton, Brandon Brooks and Ben Jones.
"There's been some things that I've seen from those guys, the younger guys on the right side that I'm really encouraged by," Smith said. "I'm really excited to see what we can do up front this year."
Smith and the Texans commence the voluntary offseason program on Monday with strength and conditioning work. Organized Team Activities (OTAs) begin a month later, on Monday May 20.