When Tytus Howard arrived for training camp, he received the news. Despite coming into his third season as the Houston Texans starting right tackle, Howard might be making the move to a different spot.
"They told me, 'Hey Tytus, we're going to rotate you in a couple of different positions. See how you get comfortable at each position,'" Howard said. "And I did it. Practiced right tackle, left tackle, left guard."
With a renewed focus on running the ball more effectively under a new coaching staff led by David Culley, the Texans wanted to put their best five offensive linemen on the field. That meant that Culley and Offensive Line Coach James Campen would be trying out the 6-5, 322-pound Howard both at interior and exterior spots on the line.
"In order to be flexible, they have to be able to absorb the playbook, understand concepts, not plays, and understand the 'whys' of the play," Campen said. "So, if they go from left to right or having to go from position to position, they understand what that other position is required to do."
"So their mental capacity to change and change blocking schemes, sometimes here we'll take a guy who's playing left guard, maybe have him go play right guard or a right tackle, go play left guard. And it helps, it helps a lot when you're building a team."
Howard displayed that flexibility. After all, his very first NFL start came at left guard in 2019 in a Week 2 win against the Jaguars at home. The next week, he moved to right tackle and started the remaining seven games of the season there until a season-ending knee injury curtailed the rest of his rookie campaign. In 2020, Howard started all 14 games at right tackle in his second season.
Making the move from left guard to right tackle or vice versa may not have always been easy. When asked to go back to playing on the interior of the line, Howard said the toughest part of the transition was speed of the play.
"When I first moved back from tackle after being at tackle for two years, I think for me it was just like when you're doing double teams and your linebacker blitz and stuff, everything just happens a little bit faster," Howard said. "So I had to get back up to speed with that, and once that happened - you know, me playing left and right, I've been used to this since I was in college - so that wasn't hard for me but it was getting up to speed with how fast things happened inside."
Howard earned two starts in the preseason at left guard, missing the preseason opener at Green Bay only because he was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
No matter where he starts in Week 1, it's a testament to Howard's skill set and his approach to the game, according to Campen.
"He's a very bright kid and he doesn't need as much time as some people do to simulate things," Campen said. "He truly understands concepts, he doesn't just learn plays. He'll learn the 'why' of the play. So he's what you'd call a problem solver at the line of scrimmage if stuff isn't going well or it wasn't a look that we were planning on, he can fix it because he understands the concept."
The Texans open the 2021 regular season against Jacksonville at NRG Stadium on Sept. 12. Kickoff is set for noon on CBS and SportsRadio 610. For tickets, click here.
Check out the best photos from the Houston Texans final 2021 preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.