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Texans' Bright Spot on Struggling Defense? Surprising Rookie

Houston Texans defensive tackle Roy Lopez is loving life amongst their defensive brotherhood

Houston Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith hasn't been afraid to rotate his defensive linemen heavily this season. But as far as one tackle is concerned, this was to be expected.

With the 195th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Texans selected defensive tackle Roy Lopez out of Arizona. To say he's exceeding expectations would be an understatement.

The former Wildcat currently ranks fourth in the league in run-stop win rate with 46 percent, making him the league's highest-ranking rookie. 

Lopez may have worked his way into a starting spot in just his first season, but this doesn't mean he's been a mainstay upfront. Smith has rotated heavily with the likes of Maliek Collins, Ross Blacklock, Jaleel Johnson and more all vying for reps.

"We have a lot of talented guys on our d-line," Lopez said. "So, the rotation is to be expected when our room is as deep as it is. Those guys deserve the right to play, just as we do. We don’t feel any sort of bad toward the rotation, we love it."

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And 'love' appears to be something they have a lot of for one another amongst the linemen "brotherhood."

"We love to see each other perform and thrive," Lopez said. "If you see us when somebody makes a play or a sack, when you see JG (Jonathan Greenard) get a sack, you look at the d-line on the sideline we are all going crazy, us on the field, we’re going crazy. It’s nothing but love in the d-line room."

One potentially key lineman moving forward will make his return this week after a two-week layoff due to testing positive for COVID-19. Second-year tackle Blacklock has shown signs of improvement on his somewhat underwhelming rookie campaign and Lopez believes he brings a great deal to the table.

"Add speed, strength, size," Lopez said. "Everything that he brings to the table. It’s good to get Ross back. He brings energy to the room. He’s part of our brotherhood. It’s kind of something that we’ve built on. He brings a smile every day."

This confidence in and love for one another upfront cannot be undervalued in times like these. Currently 1-5, this defense has had a tough time of it so far, and with the likes of the Arizona Cardinals heading their way, it isn't going to get easier any time soon.

If they're going to do their part to get the Texans out of this hole, supporting your brothers will be crucial.