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Position Breakdowns: Defensive Linemen

Defensive-linemen-position-breakdowns

The Texans defensive line has gone through a significant transformation the past two years and that is NO different in 2023. The Texans focused on edge disruptors in the 2023 NFL Draft, while adding two interior studs in free agency when the new league began back in March 2023. Here's what this unit looks like going into training camp.

2023 Texans Training Camp roster (in numerical order)

#45 Jacob Martin (6th NFL season) - traded for in 2019, returned as a 2023 FA signing

2022 stats (DEN/NYJ) - 13 games - 2.5 sacks, 2.0 TFL, five QB hits/hurries, one FF

Martin was re-signed during OTA/minicamp, adding a speed/explosive element to the perimeter. He's as pure a pass rusher as the Texans have had over the past decade and that's what can separate him from every other edge player on this squad.

#50 Chase Winovich (5th NFL season) - 2023 FA signing

2022 stats (CLE) - eight games - 20 tackles, 1.0 TFL, three QB hits

Winovich was unable to participate during OTA/minicamp, but he's a house of fire edge player with strength to set the edge in the run game and create pressure in the pass game. With seven combined opportunities to face "other" teams in joint practices and preseason games, Winovich will have plenty of chances to show that he's all the way rehabbed and ready to roll in 2023.

#51 Will Anderson Jr. (Rookie) - 2023 1st round - 3rd overall

2022 stats (at Alabama) - 10.0 sacks, 17.0 TFL, 12 QB hurries, one INT (pick six)

The Texans moved up nine spots to nab college's most disruptive defender the past three years running. In minicamp/OTA, he looked primed and ready to put pads on immediately. Nick Caserio said they even had to hold Anderson back…for now. He'll be ready to unleash very, VERY soon.

#52 Jonathan Greenard (4th NFL season) - 2020 3rd round

2022 stats - eight games - 1.5 sacks, 16 tackles, 6.0 TFL, four QB hits, one INT (pick six), one FR

I spoke with JG during the offseason and he noted that since he'd been there, he's played for four head coaches, two defensive coordinators and three different defensive line coaches in his first three seasons. This coaching staff is still a new one for JG, but it's a staff that could really help him maintain consistency, as long as he's healthy throughout the season. When that happens, look out.

#55 Jerry Hughes (14th NFL season) - 2022 FA signing

2022 stats - 17 games - 9.0 sacks, 10.0 TFL, 10 QB hits, one INT, two FF

As a 34-year old in 2022, Hughes far exceeded any expectations, leading the Texans in sacks and having one of the more memorable game performances, beating Eagles LT Jordan Mailata TWICE for sacks on national TV last year. With more help to keep him fresh, Hughes could be more pass rush specialist than every down player as a 35-year old and that could be a GREAT thing. He still has gas in the tank, but as a fresh, pass rusher, he could be a REAL problem (think Antonio Smith 2016)

#56 Thomas Booker IV (2nd NFL season) - 2022 5th round

2022 stats - ten games, 0.5 sacks, 15 tackles, 1.0 TFL and one QB hit

This is a big, BIG training camp for Booker as he tries to find his footing for the Texans after an up and down rookie season. With Hassan Ridgeway and Sheldon Rankins signed, there isn't as much opportunity inside for last year's young guns. That said, Booker being healthy is most important, but performing at a high level in training camp is paramount for Booker in 2023.

#73 Ali Gaye (Rookie) - signed as an UDFA in 2023

2022 stats (at LSU) - 2.0 sacks, 5.5 TFL and two FF

Gaye is an impressive looking dude on the hoof but he's not a natural pass rusher. He's strong as an ox, so I'm curious to see how he matures as a youngster in this defensive line, regardless as to whether he's playing inside or out.

#75 Adedayo Odeleye (2nd year in Houston) - International Pathway Player signed in 2022

2022 stats - practice squad entire season

Ade is the team's International Pathway Player and he spent the entire season with the team on the practice squad. Obviously, he's not as experienced as every other player in this position group, but he's talented and learning. That's a GREAT start.

#90 Byron Cowart (4th NFL season) - signed as FA during 2023 minicamp/OTAs

2022 stats (IND) - 17 games - 12 tackles, 2.0 TFL

Cowart was one a bona fide 5-star recruit coming out of high school and, after three seasons in NE and Indianapolis, he joined the Texans this offseason. Seeing him up close, it was clear why he was such a ballyhooed recruit and he could be a surprise player to watch this training camp.

#91 Roy Lopez (3rd NFL season) - 2021 6th round

2022 stats - 17 games, 1.0 sack, 36 tackles, 6.0 TFL, three QB hits

I've said often this offseason that big Roy played his best football over the past five to six games of the 2022 season. In OTA/minicamp, it was clear that he's transformed his body and is primed to follow up on an excellent finish to last year. Now, as I mentioned earlier, the additions on the DL - Rankins and Ridgeway - will squeeze the number of opportunities for ALL interior defensive linemen, but in a GREAT way. That said, Lopez will make the most of every shot he gets this training camp/preseason.

#92 Dylan Horton (Rookie) - 2023 4th round

2022 stats (at TCU) - 10.0 sacks, 14.5 TFL and six QB hurries

Horton got rave reviews from his former teammates at Big 12 Media Days

"Dawg"

"Quiet leader"

"Loved playing behind him, made the game easier"

He's an intriguing prospect with inside and outside possibilities, depending on defensive situations. In that way, he reminds me of Charles Omenihu, who added an inside/outside element to San Francisco's defense last year. Oh yeah, who coached that defense? I don't remember.

#93 Kurt Hinish (2nd NFL season) - signed as an UDFA in 2022

2022 stats - 15 games, 1.0 sack, 23 tackles, 6.0 TFL and two QB hits

Big Kurt was a surprise for most after not being drafted. He's a thick, compact and strong interior player who grinded his way through as a rookie. I'm curious how the additions of Ridgeway and Rankins change things on the inside this season; regardless, I have a feeling we're going to see an improved Hinish in training camp and preseason games.

#94 Demone Harris (4th NFL season) - reserve/future signing in January 2023

2022 stats - three games - four tackles, one pass defensed and one QB hit

Harris is a natural pass rusher who thrives in those situations. The roster numbers just have never given him a long term opportunity to show what he can do regularly. The additions on the edge will make this competition on the edge that much more stiff for Harris and others.

#95 Derek Rivers (7th NFL season) - re-signed in 2023

2022 stats - spent entire season on IR due to injury suffered in final preseason game

Arguably, the best pure, natural pass rusher on this team. Yes, I said it. He has pass rush moves, and more moves, for days. He just has to stay healthy. Just when it felt like he was ready to burst out in 2021, he got hurt after the Jacksonville game. Then, in 2022, he was DOMINATING training camp and preseason games but then he got hurt in preseason game number three, which cost him the entire season. Keep Rivers healthy and let's see what he can truly do.

#96 Maliek Collins(8th NFL season) - signed FA in 2021, re-signed in 2022, extended in 2023

2022 stats - 15 games, 3.5 sacks, 37 tackles, 9.0 TFl, 10 QB hits

This much was clear about the 2022 defense - when Maliek was out, the run defense was not good at all. When Maliek was back in the lineup, it was significantly better. He re-upped his contract this offseason to stay another couple of seasons. He's really found a home here and here's hoping that he takes his game to another level in 2023.

#97 Hassan Ridgeway (8th NFL season) - formerly of the 49ers - 2023 FA signing

2022 stats (SF) - 12 games, 1.0 sack, 28 tackles, 3.0 TFL and four QB hits (went on IR on 12/15/2022)

When the Texans signed Ridgeway this offseason, I went back to see what my Draft scouting report was on the big former Longhorn star. "Immensely physically talented but has to stay healthy." Honestly, nothing much has changed. When Ridgeway is healthy, he's a complete menace inside. Here's hoping that disruptive nature is a constant weapon for the Texans 2023 defense.

#98 Sheldon Rankins (8th NFL season) - formerly of the Jets - 2023 FA signing

2022 stats (NYJ) - 15 games, 3.0 sacks, 43 tackles, 4.0 TFL, seven QB hits, one FF

Rankins was hit a bit by injuries in New Orleans which kept the Saints from extending him long-term. So, he left for New York, playing in Robert Saleh's defense for a couple of seasons, which will have definite similarities to his new defense in Houston. I love Rankins' stout and quick nature, with the ability to disrupt, just like a number of interior linemen on this roster.

View photos of the Houston Texans defensive linemen heading into 2023 Training Camp.

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