The Texans have been using rotations at right guard and right tackle. They'll use the bye week to determine whether they'll continue to do so in the second half of the season.
Rookie Ben Jones has rotated with fourth-year veteran Antoine Caldwell at right guard. Caldwell started the first six games until Jones, a fourth-round draft pick who played center at Georgia, started in Week 7. Second-year pro Derek Newton has started every game at right tackle, rotating every third or fourth series with fifth-year pro Ryan Harris since Week 3.
"We're going to take a look at this," Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said on Monday. "This is the bye week, so we're going to look at a lot of film and see how it goes, see if we can decipher the difference between each one, tackle-guard. If we like the way it's going, we'll continue it. If we see a clear difference, then we'll make that decision."
The right side of the line has been a work in progress since the offseason, when the Texans lost guard Mike Brisiel in free agency to the Oakland Raiders and released tackle Eric Winston in a salary cap move. Winston had started since 2006, Brisiel since 2007.
Caldwell began the season as the starting right guard after competing with rookie third-round pick Brandon Brooks for the job early in training camp. Jones started the season as the Texans' backup at center and both guard spots. He began rotating with Caldwell in Week 2. Caldwell missed most of the Week 4 game with an ankle injury and most of the Week 7 game with a concussion.
Newton won the starting right tackle job over veteran Rashad Butler in training camp. Butler suffered a triceps injury in the preseason finale and was placed on injured reserve. The Texans then signed Harris, who started 34 games with the Denver Broncos from 2008-10. Harris has played about 35 percent of the Texans' offensive snaps since Week 3.
"We're going to continue to play those guys," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Tuesday of the four rotating linemen. "I think the young guard (Jones) has improved drastically. I think Caldwell has played pretty consistent, but he's had a hard time staying healthy and being consistently on the field healthy and those types of things. That's something he's got to work on.
"I think our young tackle (Newton) is much improved from week one to week seven. I think Ryan has helped Newton improve because he's taking a little a little bit off of him. He's taking 15 plays off of him, 20 plays off of him (a game). I think Newton has responded and played better.
"Hopefully, we're headed toward somewhere late in the season where we're settled down to our five. If we think it's best to play our seven, we're going to keep doing that."
Even with their rotating right side, the Texans have allowed only eight sacks this season, tied for second-fewest in the NFL. They rank sixth in rushing with 149.0 yards per game and average 4.0 yards per carry. They also lead the league in time of possession at 35:23 per game.
Right-Side Rotations: Snaps (percent of total offensive snaps) by game
Week 1 – vs. MIA
RT: Derek Newton 69 (100%)
RG: Antoine Caldwell 69 (100%)
Week 2 – at JAC
RT: Derek Newton 85 (100%)
RG: Antoine Caldwell 47 (55%), Ben Jones 38 (45%)
Week 3 – at DEN
RT: Derek Newton 51 (75%), Ryan Harris 17 (25%)
RG: Antoine Caldwell 39 (57%), Ben Jones 29 (43%)
Week 4 – vs. TEN
RT: Derek Newton 43 (72%), Ryan Harris 19 (32%)
RG: Ben Jones 47 (78%), Antoine Caldwell 13 (12%)
(Notes: Harris also played as a third T in goal-line sets; Caldwell left early with an ankle injury)
Week 5 – at NYJ
RT: Derek Newton 46 (71%), Ryan Harris 19 (29%)
RG: Antoine Caldwell 48 (74%), Ben Jones 17 (26%)
Week 6 – vs. GB
RT: Derek Newton 46 (65%), Ryan Harris 31 (44%)
RG: Ben Jones 64 (90%), Antoine Caldwell 7 (10%)
(Notes: The Texans rested many of their starters in the fourth quarter; Caldwell left early with a concussion)
Week 7 – vs. BAL
RT: Derek Newton 53 (66%), Ryan Harris 34 (42%)
RG: Antoine Caldwell 45 (56%), Ben Jones 38 (48%)
(Note: The Texans rested many of their starters in the fourth quarter)