Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Texans comfortable rotating linemen
By Paul Kuharsky
The Houston Texans are running the ball well and though the Broncos put some heat on Matt Schaub, the protection has been serviceable.
But a team that had a very solid offensive line last season is sorting through change. Their five guys played 13 regular-season games together in 2011. Then right guard Mike Brisiel left for a free-agent deal and right tackle Eric Winston was released for salary-cap savings.
That put Antoine Caldwell in line to inherit the right guard spot and Rashad Butler in line to inherit right tackle.
Caldwell won his job in the preseason, but Butler lost out to second-year man Derek Newton, a physical but still-raw player.
Then Butler landed on IR Aug. 31 with an arm injury.
Now both Caldwell and Newton find themselves in rotations.
Rookie Ben Jones (a fourth-rounder, not undrafted as I initially said) is taking some time away from Caldwell and veteran Ryan Harris, signed after Butler was injured, is getting some of Newton’s snaps. Against Denver, Caldwell played 57 percent of the time and Newton 75 percent of the time.
Gary Kubiak said the subs getting time helps keep the starters fresh and pointed to the way the team brought Duane Brown along in his first year as the left tackle with a similar rotation.
“We’re kind of playing seven football players up front,” Kubiak said.
If they feel they are getting the most out of that, so be it. But cohesion is one of the biggest buzz words around any offensive line, and when you’ve got four guys manning two spots, chemistry-building and familiarity come more slowly.
“We knew what we were facing when we got started this year, we know our challenges there and the key is we’re going to be good up front,” Kubiak said. “I expect us to be good up front. The best thing for us right now is we’ve got a young guard who’s earned reps, and we’ve got a young tackle that we’ve got to make sure as coaches we bring along the right way…
“I think there is a process here to becoming a seasoned pro and playing a lot of snaps and we’re trying to do it the right way.”
Sunday, the right side of the Texans' line will be dealing primarily with Titans end Derrick Morgan and tackle Sen'Derrick Marks. Morgan is getting better and Marks is especially good against the run. But the defensive linemen are surely guys the Texans think they can contain.