Getting Stronger in the Trenches!

Coach Bull had said that he wanted his team to get better on defense after their heartbreaking loss to the Chargers in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Houston Texans were also sitting at -$15 million after franchise tagging defensive end J.J Watt. Coach Bull assessed the strengths of his team and the weaknesses and decided to put OT Leremy Tunsil on the trade block. Tunsil was due $21M this season and with how poorly he played this season, coach Bull wanted to test the waters. Tunsil played 824 offensive snaps and gave up 9 sacks. He gave up the most sacks of all the offensive linemen on the Texans. Deshaun Watson’s ability to scramble, Tunsil’s inconsistent play, and his high price tag made him dispensable. The Texans gave up 21 total sacks as a unit last season whereas they sacked opposing quarterbacks 30 times as a defense. The Texans were hoping to bring in a pass rusher for Tunsil and they found the perfect team in need of a star offensive tackle.

The Denver Broncos gave a league high (46 sacks) last season. Their offensive line is very young. They drafted OT Penei in the first round last season but his rookie season could have been better. The Broncos felt like they needed another piece on their line in order to move the ball effectively and to protect their quarterback. The Texans traded LT Leremy Tunsil, OLB Zach Cunningham, and a third round pick for OLB Bradley Chubb and LT Jaawan Taylor. The trade cleared up almost $9M in cap space for the Texans and enabled them to participate in free agency. The Texans were also able to clear up $18M in cap space by parting ways with CB Bradley Roby and C Nick Martin. These two players took a back seat in the latter half of the season and their expensive contracts forced the hand of the Texans. In week 2 of free agency, the Texans were able snag two players that they believe will help their team for seasons to come.

The Texans signed RG Orlando Umana to a three year $10M deal and TE Jordan Reed to a three year $14M deal. Jared Cook’s retirement came as a surprise to the Texans and it left their TE group very thin. The Texans took a chance on Reed and hope that despite his injury history that he can be a solid number one tight end for the team. The Texans were able to secure what they needed in free agency but they wanted to go into the draft with a plan to address this position even further.

The Texans heavily scouted the Clemson vs Oklahoma national championship game where Clemson came out as the national champions. There were three targets in the first round that they were hoping would fall to them; TE Jalen Wydermyer , DT Tyler Davis, and WR Justyn Ross. The Texans were hoping that Wydermyer would fall to them because he was the best tight end in the draft and that was their biggest need on offense. The ability to get younger at the position would lessen the pressure on Jordan Reed. Wydermyer was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers several picks before the Texans, so they had to fall back to their next need. The Texan’s defensive line is very different than a season ago and they knew that adding DT Tyler Davis out of Clemson to it would take their line to another level. Davis would be able to learn from some of the best pass rushers in the league. The Texans selected Davis with their 25th overall pick and are set up for success with J.J Watt, Bradley Chubb, Jacob Martin, and Tyler Davis rushing the passer. The rest of the draft was more of a filling the backup roles on the team and the Texans were able to hit on most of those needs.

The Texans drafted TE Jeremy Ruckert out of Ohio State in the second round. Ruckert has average speed, is sure-handed, but will have to improve on his run blocking if he wants to become a starter for the Texans. Ruckert is the second best tight end on the team and have a role in two tight end sets, but you have to assume the Texans want Ruckert to be Jordan Reed’s successor. He has all the makings of a starting caliber tight end but the Texans aren’t ready to throw him out there full-time just yet. The Texans traded their third round pick to the Broncos, but had two fourth round picks. They used those picks on WR Joseph Ngata and HB Lyn-J-Dixon out of Clemson. The Texans drafted three players in the first four rounds out of Clemson and hope that they’ll produce at a high caliber rate. Ngata’s lack of speed is what hurts him in this offense, but his height and catching ability will give him an edge in 5 wide sets as well as in the red zone. The Broncos halfback group featured Javian Hawkins and Kenneth Gainwell prior to the draft, so they added a third halfback for depth and with the experience of being in high pressure situations with the game on the line.

The Texans will be playing their starters minimally in the preseason. It has been rumoured that they will play for a quarter or two but they won’t see full game action until week 1 versus the Kansas City Chiefs. The Texans are more interested in seeing how well their defensive front meshes together and if the transition to the interior helps J.J Watt get more pressure to the quarterback. The hope is that if Watt continues to get double teamed as he was so often last season, Bradley Chubb, Tyler Davis, or Jacob Martin will be able to beat the man blocking them.