The Houston Texans are looking to improve to 3-0 as they travel to take on the Baltimore Ravens today. One Texan who did not travel with the team is All-Pro LT Duane Brown, who was left behind to rest the injured foot he sustained in last week’s win vs. the Tennessee Titans. Veteran swing tackle Ryan Harris will start in his place, and will be tasked with protecting the blind side of Matt Schaub.
The key matchup in the game will be the Texans offensive line vs. the front seven of Baltimore. Harris and RT Derek Newton will have the huge challenge of slowing Baltimore pass rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Houston enters the contest third in the NFL in rushing, and that success on the ground will need to continue today. The offensive line will need to neutralize Ravens NT Haloti Ngata. If they can keep him from being in the backfield and disrupting plays, the two headed running back combination of Arian Foster and Ben Tate should continue to do damage.
A good day on the ground is key to keeping the Texans out of third and long situations that will put them at a disadvantage without one of the league’s best pass protectors on the field. Although they have many new faces on defense, the Ravens front seven is still potent enough to control a game. They only gave up six points, and didn’t allow a touchdown last week. Of course, that was against an anemic Cleveland Browns offense, but Suggs, Dumervil, Ngata and company are still to be respected against any offense.
The Texans offensive line needs to set the tone early. If Newton and Harris are struggling on the edges, they will have to adjust the playcalling. More rollouts, three step drops and less play action may be on the agenda. Schaub is not the best at evading the rush. So if Baltimore is getting after him, Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison will have to adjust accordingly.
Of course, if the run game is clicking, that will make the job easier. Houston has a decided advantage with their tight ends against Baltimore’s linebackers in coverage. Owen Daniels and Garret Graham should be able to get open and make plays in the middle of the field. Whether or not they can capitalize on this advantage depends on how the offensive line plays. They will be in the spotlight today.