Talking with the casual NFL fan about an offensive line usually won’t last very long. But when you have a team like the Houston Texans that run the zone-blocking scheme, it’s quite difficult for it not to be a hot button issue. So while most followers of the team are squabbling over if the team should bring Eric Winston back or not, something seems to be going unnoticed after the 2013 NFL Draft: the entire future of this offensive line is already in-house.
Whenever an offensive line selection is made, there is usually a collective shrug from any fan base. You can guess if a guy is a scheme fit or whatever, but rarely outside of the first round is it a prospect that makes you jump out of your seat with excitement. But after cutting Winston and losing Mike Brisiel to free agency, it was clear that the team would be reloading and rebuilding the line through the draft and it became evident when they drafted five offensive line prospects in two years.
Duane Brown is clearly the anchor of the offensive line and some consider him among the best at left tackle in the sport. To think he won’t be a Texan for the immediate future would be foolish, barring major injury. But every other position has a successor in place either this season or the near future.
At left guard, Wade Smith began to show a decline last season and in the last year of his deal, could be a surprise camp cut if they need some wiggle room or a young guy steals his lunch money. Regardless, 2013 is likely his last season here and there are several rookies, as well as Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks on the roster ready to slide over if need be.
Chris Myers is still at the top of his game in the middle, but Jones was clearly drafted in 2012 to be his eventual replacement. Myers has an interesting contract that could get messy down the road. Jones will fill in as guard and center depth for the time being, but he has to be the long-term plan to fill Myers’ shoes once his tenure here is done.
Brandon Brooks, a 2012 pick in the third round is penciled in to get the nod at right guard this season. The team was consistently pushed around on that side last year and it was more than just the departure of Brisiel and Winston. Brooks has the girth and size needed to play that side and can help create spacing for Arian Foster in this scheme. He’s got all the potential in the world if he just works for it.
Right tackle seems to be the position of the most disagreement among the fans. Some, such as myself, see next to nothing in Derek Newton, who filled in for the departed Winston in 2012. Then there are others who think chemistry needs to be developed among this group for it to be truly successful and making a change now would be damaging. But if the former is true, the team did select Brennan Williams in the third round this year. It’s doubtful to see anyone starting as a rookie in this complicated of a scheme, but Newton is going to have a fight on his hands if the position is truly up for grabs as some with the team have indicated.
Houston also picked up David Quessenberry late in this draft and it could turn out to be essential. He is said to be able to play any position on the line and could not only provide enormous depth, but be a full time starter should any in front of him depart via free agency in the next couple of years. Once thought of as a second rounder in this most recent draft, snatching him up in the sixth was a steal for Rick Smith.
As you can see, there is a plan in place for the future of the offensive line that is both affordable and full of potential. With a scheme like this, you can never plan far enough ahead and the future of the offensive line is one of the few things I’m not worried about going forward.