Last season, the right side of the offensive line was a popular topic among fans and followers of the Houston Texans. The in-season rotation at right guard and right tackle are what many point to as the reason for a slight decline in the Texans rushing offense in 2012. Houston finished eighth in the NFL with 132.7 rushing ypg, and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Those numbers were down from 2011, where they placed second in the league with 153 ypg and 4.5 yards per carry.
Second-year man Brandon Brooks, who got more reps at right guard during the stretch run and the playoffs last season, is penciled in to start there this season. For the second consecutive training camp, there will be an open competition for the right tackle spot on the Texans offensive line. Three players, the incumbent Derek Newton (above), veteran Ryan Harris and rookie third-round draft choice Brennan Williams will battle it out during camp and the preseason.
Newton is the returning starter and likely considered the front runner after winning the battle in camp and starting all 14 games that he played in last season. However, he had offseason patella tendon surgery on his right knee and missed all of OTAs. After rehabbing, he was cleared for training camp and was on the field day one. Newton is athletic and the Texans will be looking for him to make a nice jump in his second year in the offense.
Harris took Newton’s first-team reps during OTAs. The veteran also received major playing time in 2012, playing in all 16 games and starting the two Newton missed due to injury. Harris alternated with Newton every third series or so during the season. Houston signed Harris the week before the season started, and he was able to contribute due to his experience in the zone-blocking scheme in his four years with the Denver Broncos.
Williams was the second of two Texans third-round picks in this year’s draft. The rookie out of North Carolina was an honorable mention All-ACC performer in 2012. He had an injury setback during rookie minicamp and also missed OTAs. Like Newton, Williams passed his physical, was cleared and on the field on day one of training camp.
Another player to keep an eye on is rookie sixth-round draft pick David Quessenberry. He received plenty of reps during OTAs with Newton and Williams sidelined and held his own. The Texans have their first training camp practice in pads tomorrow, and with that, the hotly contested battle for the right tackle position will commence.