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'Another Big Step': Texans Lovie Smith Gives Praise To Jonathan Greenard

Lovie Smith has high hopes for Jonathan Greenard's production on the Houston Texans' defensive line in 2022

HOUSTON -- Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio isn't a fan of the term "rebuild." He is a fan of third-year defensive end Jonathan Greenard

So is Texans coach Lovie Smith, who hopes his production level will expand once training camp begins on July 24. 

“He will take another big step this year,” Smith said in an interview with Marc Vandermeer on the team's website. 

Few have benefitted from Smith's arrival in Houston more than Greenard. When drafted out of Florida in 2020, he was expected to factor into the pass rush as a standing blitzer. The production was limited under then-coordinator Anthony Weaver as Greenard would only record 19 total tackles and one sack. 

Smith, who predominantly runs a four-man pass rush, made the decision to move Greenard down the line of the scrimmage. Playing from the three-point stance, he would go on to be Houston's breakout star in the lackluster 2021 campaign, leading the Texans with eight sacks, nine tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hits. 

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Greenard finished as Pro Football Focus' 11th ranked pass rusher last season with a grade of 82.9. PFF also is expecting a breakout year from him this fall now that he's been fully acclimated to Smith's defensive front. 

"This one may be cheating, as Greenard was tremendous last season, but it was on limited time. He only played 414 snaps in 2021, earning an 89.2 pass-rushing grade. These weren’t fluke plays — he has some of the best hand usage of any young pass-rusher in the NFL. Greenard has a whole host of moves at his disposal to go along with nearly 35-inch arms. That’s a winning combination even if we didn’t get to see it over the course of a full season." - PFF's Mike Renner 

Greenard did not participate in offseason workouts as he still is recovering from foot surgery. He is expected to be ready for the start of training camp and should be considered a front-runner to be the team's top defensive linemen. 

Houston's production in the pass rushing department should improve this fall after adding veteran talent this offseason. The Texans signed Los Angeles Rams' Obo Okoronkwo at the start of free agency. After the draft, Houston added Seattle Seahawks' Rasheem Green, along with Buffalo Bills defensive ends Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes

Veterans like Hughes should be viewed as a mentor for Greenard this season. In time, the expectation is for Greenard to reach the double-digit marker in sacks, something that hasn't happened in Houston since 2018.