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Texans' Jonathan Greenard Ready For Breakout

Houston's top pass rusher is looking to improve on eight sacks in 2021

HOUSTON -- Confidence is the necessary trait needed for any pass rusher in today's NFL. A rookie offensive tackle or a veteran All-Pro could line up on the offensive line, but a pass rusher must have the same mentality. 

See the snap, attack. It's something that Houston Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard has continued to work on throughout his offseason training. 

In a 4-13 season, fans looked for positives. Greenard's team-high eight sacks and 12 quarterback hits were one of the few bright spots in what was mostly a season of trouble and turmoil. 

He's not stopping there. Those eight sacks might have been a career-best, but it's the start of something promising. That's the way he looks at it as OTAs inch closer and closer.

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“Just playing relentless, just handling my job, reading my keys, beating my guy, just trying to make a play,” Greenard said at a recent charity event. “I mean overall, the defense, we’re all trying to make a play. I was just at the right place, right time, I think.”

One thing Greenard is happy about with the Texans is the returning personnel. With Lovie Smith being promoted to head coach, the defensive alignment won't be changing much. 

Smith predominantly plays his defense in a zone formation with a four-man pass rush. While the Smith plans on running more man in 2022, Greenard's role will remain a constant. 

That's a good thing in his mind. Most of his success at Florida came from off the edge as a "tweener" working both from a two- and three-point stance. After last season, he can see better results with his hand in the dirt for the extra push. 

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“You won’t have to worry about playing with passion and emotion on the team, that’s for sure,” Greenard said of Smith. “I’m excited about the hire, but I also know we got a lot of work to do. So, I’m ready to turn this thing around.” 

Multiple scouts around the league believe Greenard is an ascending talent for the Texans and a foundational building block in Year of new era of Texans' football. He should see a majority of reps as the team's strong-side defensive end. 

Although young, Greenard's consistent progression as a pass rusher likely has earned him a larger role on Smith's defense. Houston finished bottom-five in sacks last season with only 32 takedowns. It ranked 31st in run defense, allowing an average of 142.2 rushing yards. 

The Texans focused heavily after the draft on adding defensive ends to fortify the front seven. Texans general manager Nick Caserio added Seattle Seahawks' Rasheem Green and Buffalo Bills Mario Addison

A week later, Texas native and former Bills standout Jerry Hughes agreed to terms as well. Houston also signed former Los Angeles Rams pass rusher Obo Okoronkwo on a one-year deal at the start of free agency. 

The new quartet should find a way to rotate in on the defensive line. Greenard will need to take breathers from time to time, but with camp on the horizon, expect him to be the top pass rusher coming in. 

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Far from a finished product, Greenard's focus this offseason is on bettering his hands to win at the point of attack. If he can do that, the Texans should see better results in the trenches. 

“We’ve got a lot of fire from last year. We saw glimpses and pieces of what we can be doing as a team and as a unit," Greenard said. "I’m excited. We’re doing our thing in the weight room and on the playbook as well. We have to let everything come to fruition.”