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The Ascent of Houston Texans’ Jon Greenard

’Texans’ Jon Greenard: ‘Just going to keep going up

INDIANAPOLIS – Jon Greenard is building a dangerous pass-rushing repertoire and reputation with each long arm, bull rush, chop, rip and swim move at a time.

Greenard is regarded as an ascending young player who has a relentless motor and a growing understanding of how to apply his aggressive style, moves and deceptive strength to regularly penetrate the line of scrimmage and hit the quarterback.

Although Greenard missed the first two games of the season with a sprained ankle suffered during the first preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, he’s making up for lost time. Heading into Sunday’s road game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Houston Texans’ second-year defensive end has seven tackles, two sacks, three tackles for losses and one forced fumble.

“It’s pretty good,” Greenard said. “It’s a solid start, obviously being hurt the first couple of games. We’ve got a long way to go. I feel like I’ve got a long way to go to polish up a few things technique-wise and get the body feeling right. It’s just going to keep going up from here.”

Greenard’s versatile skills were on display last Sunday during a 25-22 defeat to the New England Patriots. He sacked rookie quarterback Mac Jones in the fourth quarter and finished with two tackles for losses. During a loss to the Carolina Panthers, Greenard chopped the football out of quarterback Sam Darnold’s hand for a sack and forced fumble.

Greenard uses his superior arm length to keep blockers at bay and prevent them from getting their hands on his body. He redirects his charge adeptly and is in constant motion, making him an extremely difficult blocking assignment.

“I’ve had long arms pretty much my whole life,” Greenard said. “When they introduced the move to me, it was like, ‘Wow, this move actually does work.’ One arm is longer than the other one, so I’ve been trying to perfect that and building, moving forward, building off of that move, it’s going to be a benefit for me.”

When the Texans drafted Greenard in the third round last year from the University of Florida, they had high hopes for him as a hybrid edge rusher.

Now, Greenard is realizing that potential. The Texans foresee a bright future for him.

“He plays our six-technique position, which is over the tight end a majority of the time,” Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith said. “I think he’s strong enough, stout enough, big enough for us to have a favorable matchup at that position.

“It always comes down to defensive linemen being able to rush the passer, and I think he can rush, too. He’s young and I think his best football is ahead of him, but he’ll continue to play for us. We like a lot of the things that he’s done. Anxious for him to take another step, also.”

As a graduate transfer from Louisville, Greenard was an impact player for the Gators. He was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection who recorded 9½ sacks, 52 tackles, 15½ for losses, one interception and three forced fumbles.

At 6-3, 263 pounds, Greenard is a classic tweener who plays the game with a lot of power.

Greenard is a student of the game whose first-step quickness tells a different story than his ordinary 4.87 40-yard dash time. Greenard’s 10-yard split of 1.71 seconds is impressive.

Greenard has an extensive repertoire of pass-rushing moves. He combines strength, quickness and heavy hands to control blockers and disengage to create big plays.

As a player, Greenard’s first-step quickness, violent power and ability to create leverage allow him to consistently win at the line of scrimmage.

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“The biggest thing with Jon is his initial quickness and burst. He’s a slippery guy,” Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “You can go back and look at Terrell Suggs coming out of Arizona State. He didn’t run very fast, and he dropped some because of that in the draft. What you run is just a portion of what a player is.”

Greenard’s trademark intensity, hard-hitting style and passion for football, the game he’s played since he was 5 years old, were major reasons Grantham wanted him as a cornerstone of his defense after recruiting him initially to Louisville.

Greenard was definitely ready for the jump in competition.

Greenard led Louisville with 15½ tackles for losses in 2017 and also recorded seven sacks. He was named team captain. In 2018, a major wrist injury sidelined him.

That preceded his decision to transfer to Florida and compete in the SEC. Greenard returned a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown against Vanderbilt. He had three sacks against Florida State, delivering a crushing hit on freshman quarterback Jordan Travis that caused a fumble.

“Honestly, the intangibles Jon had were why I wanted to bring him to Gainesville,” Grantham said. “We were in the transition of taking over the program, and we had some young players coming in that I wanted him to be around. Quite frankly, within the first quarter of the first game, he became the leader of that defense.

“Jon has the passion. He wants to be the best at everything he does. He’s going to come early for meetings. He’s going to prepare in the weight room and film room and work his tail off. The way he attacks meetings, practices — everything he does is game day.”

Greenard's teammates have taken notice of his all-out style of play. They're watching him make a consistent impact as a hard-nosed pass rusher and run-stopper.

“Last week, he had a great game, I was excited to see it," Texans safety Justin Reid said. "He blew the running back up on that one play whenever he twisted inside. Had a big-time sack when we needed it at the end of the game. That’s something that I know opposing offenses are going to have to watch out for, keep an eye on him, especially as he continues to do that. It was big-time plays that he made."

Greenard worked overtime this summer training with several of his teammates, including defensive tackles Maliek Collins and Jaleel Johnson and defensive ends Jacob Martin and Jordan Jenkins, under the tutelage of private defensive line coach Brandon Jordan, who trains some of the top pass rushers around the NFL.

“Anytime you work with BT, it opens up things from top to bottom,” Greenard said. “Everything he sees from me, it opens up a lot of things from a pass rushing repertoire. That’s why so many people go to him to work.”

As the Texans prepare for the Colts, Greenard has set his ambitions on sacking quarterback Carson Wentz. First, though, they have to stop the run and get powerful running back Jonathan Taylor on the ground.

“We have to stop the run first to get to those third-and-long situations where he has to hold the ball,” Greenard said. “Taylor is a beast. We saw the game Monday nightagainst the Ravens, and he had a hell of a game. We understand it’s all 11 hats to the football and he’ll fall. It’s a must-win situation. We all know this division is always a toss-up. Winning this game can help us a lot.”

Greenard is encouraged by Texans coach David Culley’s positive, but demanding coaching style. Although the Texans are in a four-game losing streak and 1-4 overall, Greenard isn’t concerned and expressed a lot of confidence in Culley’s leadership.

“Coach Culley, he does everything, and, him being a good person, it sheds light,” Greenard said. “His energy lights the room up. Nobody likes to lose. He doesn’t’ like to lose, but I commend him and I know he leads us in the right way. Watch the tape, we play hard for him.”

Greenard ranks second on the Texans behind defensive end Whitney Mercilus’ three sacks. However, Greenard doesn’t focus on his statistics. He’ll wait until the season is over to see where he stands.

“Just want to maximize my value,” Greenard said. “I don’t count them. I just play ball.”