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.
We'll begin with the offensive line.
2021 Snap Usage - 1,066 total offensive snaps in 2021
Players under contract for the 2022 season, in order of snaps played in 2021:
Tytus Howard - 244 snaps at LT (22.9% of total snaps at LT), 683 snaps at LG (64.1% of total snaps at LG)
Howard will enter the fourth season of his rookie contract in 2022. One of the main discussion points for General Manager Nick Caserio and the Texans new head coach is how/where Howard is best utilized on the offensive line. How Caserio and company address that situation will certainly have a domino effect up and down the line of scrimmage as it pertains to roster construction. It was clear in the games that Howard played left tackle that he was comfortable in the role and played well in Laremy Tunsil's stead. Is a move back to right tackle in his future? Is his permanent home at left tackle? If so, what does that mean for Tunsil? It's an intriguing situation to say the least.
Charlie Heck - 827 snaps at RT (77.5% of total snaps)
Heck enters the third year of his career, having started a few games in 2020 as a rookie and stepping in as a starter in Week 5 against New England. He improved throughout his two-year stint and another year jump should make year three a strong one.
Max Scharping - 689 snaps at OG (64.63% of total snaps)
Scharping, as a second round selection in 2019, enters the final year of his four year rookie contract. As a rookie, Scharping was a full-time starter, not missing a snap, seemingly, from game three of the season to the loss at Kansas City in the playoffs. Unfortunately, 2020 was not quite that way, but as a third year veteran, Scharping rebounded with a much better season as he found his confidence again at the guard position.
Justin McCray - 545 snaps at OG/OC (51.1% of total snaps)
The Texans signed McCray to a two year deal in 2021, which has him under contract for 2022. McCray wasn't expected to start in 2021, but with injuries and OL change and the sort, he ended up playing over half of the offensive snaps in the 2021 season. He and Scharping are the only two interior players that started in 2021 under contract for the 2022 season at this point.
Laremy Tunsil - 262 snaps at LT (24.6% of total snaps)
Over the past two seasons, Tunsil was a Pro Bowler for the first time in his career after being traded to Houston in 2019. As such, when he went down with an injury early in week five, the impact was significant. There's a ton of noise in league circles and local/national media about Tunsil's future in Houston. The play of Howard at LT and a strong OT class in the 2022 NFL Draft have done nothing but increase that noise. I've been a massive Tunsil fan for a LONG time so I try to remain deaf to it all, honestly.
Marcus Cannon - 213 snaps at RT (19.9% of total snaps)
Unfortunately, Cannon's season ended after Week 4 with microdiscectomy surgery on his back, a surgery with which I'm awfully familiar as I had the same surgery in 2020. After opting out of 2020 as a high risk candidate due to COVID, Cannon came back in 2021 and just as he was completely shaking off the rust, he was lost for the season. Heck stepped into the fray and held it down at that spot the rest of the season. The cagey veteran Cannon has one more year on his contract.
Players NOT currently under contract for the 2022 season, in order of snaps played in 2021:
Justin Britt - 671 snaps at OC (62.95% of total snaps)
The Texans signed Britt to a one year deal last offseason after Britt suffered through nearly two seasons with an injury in Seattle. He was an upgrade over previous middle men in the Texans offensive line as he made an impact on and off the field for this organization while he was here. He is an unrestricted free agent heading into the 2022 season.
Geron Christian Sr. - 588 snaps at LT (55.2% of total snaps)
Christian Sr. was signed in training camp to bolster the tackle position and found himself starting at LT for the injured Tunsil for much of the season. As I mentioned above, decisions on Howard and the requisite domino effect will impact Christian and whether he'll sign another contract with the Texans going forward. He is an unrestricted free agent heading into the 2022 season.
Lane Taylor - 311 snaps at OG (29.2% of total snaps)
Taylor, similar to Britt, was coming off of two years of injury recovery and finally was able to get on the field in week 12 against the Jets. He then started five games down the stretch, missing only due to COVID that kept him off the field for the Jacksonville and Los Angeles games. He is an unrestricted free agent heading into the 2022 season.
Jimmy Morrissey - 258 snaps at OC (24.2% of total snaps)
Morrissey was drafted by Las Vegas in the seventh round of the 2021 Draft and was eventually claimed by the Texans when he was waived. Morrissey hadn't been in Houston but for a couple of weeks when he was asked to start at center against Miami in Week 9. He started four games as a rookie, including the win over the Chargers the day after Christmas. He's an exclusive rights free agent (ERFA) for 2022.
**An ERFA is a player with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract. If his original team offers him a one-year contract at the league minimum, the player cannot negotiate with other teams (by NFL definition)
Cole Toner - 68 snaps at LG (6.4% of total snaps)
Toner started against the Chargers at LG due to a rash of absences due to COVID and played well in that game. He also was injured in that game and placed on IR the day following. He's an unrestricted free agent for the 2022 season.
Futures Contracts for 2022:
Sam Cooper - The former Merrimack College star signed a one year deal for 2022, excited to see him as I've heard good things about him around the league. He projects to play on the interior in the future.
Jordan Steckler - I thought there were moments in 2021 training camp that he showed some real promise as an edge protector. He signed a one year deal for 2022 as well.
Jake Eldrenkamp - The former Washington Husky signed a one year deal with the Texans and projects to play on the interior at guard or center in the future.
The Future - Top Prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft:
Evan Neal, Alabama - #3 in the Harris 100* Ikem "Icky" Ekwonu, NC State - #5 in the Harris 100 (OT or OG) Charles Cross, Mississippi State - #9 in the Harris 100 Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa - #18 in the Harris 100 Bernhard Raimann*, Central Michigan - #41 in the Harris 100
Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa - #6 in the Harris 100 (mainly OC)* Kenyon Green, Texas A&M - #10 in the Harris 100 (OG or OT) Zion Johnson, Boston College - #61 in the Harris 100 (mainly OG) Jamaree Salyer, Georgia - #68 in the Harris 100 (OG or OT) Marquis Hayes*, Oklahoma - #90 in the Harris 100 (mainly OG)