Texans Defensive Line Update | Roster Breakdown

As we head into this key 2022 offseason, let's take a look at where the Texans stand in terms of roster construction and makeup, position by position. It's time to dive into the defensive line.

2021 Snap Usage - 1,148 total team defensive snaps in 2021
Snap Breakdown
Players under contract for the 2022 season - 1,919
Players not under contract for the 2022 season - 2,131
Players released/waived/traded during the 2021 season - 452

Players under contract for the 2022 season, in order of snaps played in 2021.

Defensive ends

Jonathan Greenard - 413 snaps (36.0% of total)
Greenard is THE man on the Texans defensive line as we enter the offseason. He finished the season with 8.0 sacks, 33 tackles, 12 QB hits and nine TFL on just 413 snaps in 11 games (actual game total is 12, but he missed the majority of the Week 4 game against Buffalo with an injury). There is no bigger key for Greenard going forward than staying healthy. When he was on the field consistently, the numbers were more than evident. But, when injuries and COVID struck during the season, he was severely missed and his return wasn't smooth from those maladies as well. Greenard missed a two game stretch to start the season (ankle), then missed the Miami game in week 11 and then missed a two week stretch in December against the Jaguars and Chargers due to COVID. Staying healthy is PARAMOUNT as Greenard heads into his third season, a key one for a third rounder on his rookie contract.

Jordan Jenkins - 282 snaps (24.6% of total)
Jenkins signed a two year deal heading into the 2021 season, so he's on tap to be here in 2022 and that's a good thing, especially with the number of starts/snaps and experience out on the edge potentially leaving the building. Jenkins had one of the best games we saw in 2021 down in Miami, in which he racked up 1.5 sacks, two TFL and three QB hits on just 36 snaps. But, after just five snaps in the next game at Tennessee, Jenkins was injured and missed a key three game homestand in December. When healthy, he was a key component for this defense and I'd expect him to be in 2022 as well.

Derek Rivers - 143 snaps (12.5% of total)
Throughout his career, Rivers has flashed when he's been able to be on the field, but injuries have slowed him significantly. Once he was able to get on the field in 2021, he was an asset to the defensive line out on the edge. He re-signed with the Texans for the 2022 season and I think his output could spike with even more snaps next season.

Demone Harris - 41 snaps (3.6% of total) - Futures contract
There isn't a ton of film on Harris as a Texan as he spent the majority of his time with the practice squad in 2021. But, he's got some upside out on the edge and he signed a futures/reserve contract for the 2022 season. As such, with a full offseason, training camp and preseason schedule, he'll have plenty of opportunity to prove his worth for 2022 (and, perhaps, beyond).

Ron'Dell Carter - 17 snaps (1.5% of total)
Carter signed with the Texans late in the 2021 season to stay for 2022. We didn't get to see much of the James Madison alum, but he'll be in Houston to vie for opportunities in the edge group this spring/summer.

Interior DL

Roy Lopez Jr. - 501 snaps (43.6% of total)
The last pick of a team's NFL Draft often won't even make it to the starting line of his rookie season. Even if said draft pick makes the 53-man roster, he usually isn't active nor does he play at all, if he makes the 46-man game day roster. Not this guy. Lopez Jr. wasn't having that at all in his rookie campaign. He made an impact nearly from day one, starting 15 of the teams 17 games, missing just one game due to COVID late in the season. He was stout at the point of attack. He was quick to the football in pursuit. He didn't rack up a ton of sacks, but he made his presence felt by pushing the pass pocket. It's odd to say that a sixth round defensive tackle that played just five games in his final season in college was one of the most valuable players on the roster, but that's the impact Lopez Jr. made in his first season as a Texan.

Ross Blacklock - 455 snaps (39.5% of total)
The 2022 season is a MASSIVE one for Blacklock, the team's first pick (2nd round) in the 2020 NFL Draft. He's shown some flashes that had me believing that he was ready to dominate games on a consistent basis. But, he wasn't able to do that throughout the season. As such, he MUST find the consistency that allows him to dominate games on a consistent basis. The elite traits are all there. He's built like a fast moving tank. He's strong as an ox. With 29 games under his belt heading into year three, it's a HUGELY important year for Blacklock. The Texans NEED him to flourish in 2022.

Michael Dwumfour - 67 snaps (5.8% of total) - Futures contract
In the week 16 win over the Chargers, Dwumfour was called up to the 46-man Game Day roster. He had never suited up in a NFL regular season game; yet, when he went on the field, he looked FAR from out of place. He had a two or three play sequence on a drive against the Chargers that was darn impressive. He then followed that up with showing even more flashes in the game at San Francisco. He's quick up the field and strong at the point of attack. There's a ton of potential for Dwumfour and it's great to see him back in 2022.

Players NOT currently under contract for the 2022 season, in order of snaps played in 2021.

Defensive ends

Jacob Martin - 698 snaps (60.8% of total)
Martin has been a whirling dervish of activity off the edge since he arrived in 2019. He just never stopped, never stopping as Andy Samberg once said. Regardless as to whether he returns in 2022 and beyond or not, Martin left some indelible memories for Texans fans to remember. He did play the most snaps out on the edge in 2021 so if he does move sign elsewhere, there'll be a big play void to fill for that edge group in 2022.

DeMarcus Walker - 456 snaps (39.7% of total)
Walker didn't put up sacks numbers like he did in Denver in 2020, but he was a valuable, versatile piece for the Texans defensive line in 2021. He was the one guy that didn't really fit into the "defensive ends" or "interior DL" bucket easily due to his ability to play inside and outside with equal impact. His forced fumble against the Chargers was a major key in that win on the day after Christmas. That play, and a handful of others, showed what Walker can do and it'd be great to see him back in 2022.

Interior DL

Maliek Collins - 629 snaps (54.8% of total)
Collins played the most snaps of any Texans interior defender after signing a one-year deal heading into the 2021 season. After a difficult season in Las Vegas in 2020, Collins took his game up a level, or three, in Houston as he found his groove again during the 2021 season. His powerful hands and quick first step made life difficult for guards and centers on the Texans schedule. I'd REALLY like to bring him back for the 2022 season, allowing him to continue to mesh with youngsters Roy Lopez Jr. and Ross Blacklock. There are only three interior linemen under contract for the 2022 season, so that's all the more reason why I'd love to bring him back too.

Jaleel Johnson - 322 snaps (28.1% of total)
Johnson was released just after the end of the 2021 preseason schedule and that was a hard cut as we noted throughout training camp. He and the rest of that defensive line made the cutdown decision a difficult one; unfortunately, Johnson's name was the one that was called. However, when Vincent Taylor went down with an Achilles injury, Johnson returned to the Texans and moved into the interior rotation without missing a beat. He's an unrestricted free agent heading into the 2022 season.

Vincent Taylor - 26 snaps (2.3% of total)
Taylor signed a one year deal back in the spring of 2021 and it appeared that was going to be one of the "hits" of the group of free agents that signed. But, in Week 1 against Jacksonville, Taylor tore his Achilles and was lost for the entire season. He has continued to rehab and hopefully he can be ready for 2022. Now, whether he's here in Houston or not remains the question.

The Future - Top Prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft

Edge

Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan (6-6, 275 lb.)
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon (6-5, 258 lb.)
George Karlaftis, Purdue (6-4, 275 lb.)
David Ojabo, Michigan (6-5, 250 lb.)
Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State (6-3, 253 lb.)

Inside/Outside DL

DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M (6-4, 290 lb.)
Cameron Thomas, San Diego State (6-5, 270 lb.)
Travon Walker, Georgia (6-5, 275 lb.)
Logan Hall, Houston (6-6, 275 lb.)

Interior DL

Jordan Davis, Georgia (6-6, 345 lb.)
Devonte Wyatt, Georgia (6-3, 315 lb.)
Phidarian 'Phil' Mathis, Alabama (6-4, 312 lb.)
Haskell Garrett, Ohio State (6-2, 299 lb.)

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