On Tuesday, we received the news that Wade Smith had a minor surgery (scoping) on his knee, and that the Houston Texans‘ left guard would be out for an undetermined length of time. Smith can be expected to be back on the field in about two months, if everything goes well.
This could really hurt the Texans, as the combination of Duane Brown at left tackle, Smith at left guard, and Chris Myers at center was one of the best left sides in the NFL. It now looks like either Ben Jones or David Quessenberry will get the start at left guard while Smith is out.
Jones is a second-year player out of Georgia, and earned Texans’ rookie of the year honors while starting at right guard last season with his speed and size. However, he lost the starting job at right guard because he has a tendency to play high and get knocked around a little in the run game.
Quessenberry is a rookie that Houston drafted out of San Jose State. He played in 48 games for the Spartans after being redshirted his freshman year, and made the second-team All-WAC in 2011 and first-team All-WAC in 2012. He played at left tackle all four years and helped keep quarterback David Fales upright on his way to a monster season, guiding the Spartans to an 11-2 finish in 2012. His scouting report from before the 2013 NFL Draft says that he, “Plays with low pad level and flashes the mean streak. Possesses the natural bend to succeed in pass protection, both mirroring ends while leveraging a strong punch and riding edge rushers around the pocket.”
However, it also says that he has a few weaknesses, including, “His average upper-body strength and thinner legs can cause him to be bull rushed, though he usually widens his base and plants to prevent it.” Some Texans fans (and any Dallas Cowboys fans) would be a little discouraged to hear him compared to the Cowboys’ Doug Free.
But left guard isn’t the only question mark for the Texans’ offensive line. It hasn’t been determined yet who will play at right guard, since the Texans have lost players in this position to free agency two years in a row. Two years ago, Mike Brisiel left the Texans for the Oakland Raiders, and at the end of last season, Antonie Caldwell left the Texans for more money with the Buffalo Bills. Jones was originally slated to split time here with Brandon Brooks, but it now looks like Brooks has the job.
Brooks was inactive for the first 10 games of the 2012 season, but played in the final six games and in both playoff games. He debuted on special teams against the Detroit Lions, and in the AFC Wild Card game, he helped Arian Foster run for 140 yards and didn’t allow Matt Schaub to get sacked.
At right tackle, the Texans also have a few questions, as Rashard Butler was projected to be the starter, but he had a season-ending triceps injury during the preseason. Derek Newton played well for the Texans, but sat out Week 13 and 14 with a knee injury. Ryan Harris was signed to start in those two games, and is now the third-string tackle behind rookie Brennan Williams. Williams was the 89th pick of the draft out of North Carolina (famous for NFL-caliber linemen), but hurt his knee in rookie camp in May. Gary Kubiak had this to say on the subject in an interview with Nick Scurfield:
“(Right tackle) is (a concern),” Kubiak said. “I think it is for the guys up front, too. Our four starters are locked in up front, putting Brandon in with those guys. I think even those guys are looking, thinking, ‘OK, who’s it going to be? Who’s going to step up and take this job and play here for the next 10 years and play right tackle for the Texans?’ So I think we’re all watching that. I think Newton took a step towards doing that last year, and now he has to take another big step.”
Left tackle and center aren’t very concerning for the Texans, as they made a great addition to the team in 2012 by signing Brown in free agency and have had terrific production out of Myers.