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How Much Can Jon Greenard Help Texans Pass Rush?

Jonathan Greenard continues to be a bright spot for the Texans' defensive line

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans don't have much trending in their direction. Defensive end Jonathan Greenard, however, is one exception. 

Greenard has been the breakout star under new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith. A defensive end by trade during his time at Florida and Louisville, the second-year defender is coming into his own as Houston's premier pass rusher.

With a 1-5 record, Houston is looking for its cornerstone pieces. It's hard not to imagine Greenard being one. 

"He was just a young player that needed time to play," Smith said Thursday. "No. 1, an opportunity, if you go back to the preseason he was starting to come, then had an injury." 

Drafted in the third round, Greenard began to take first-team reps following an offseason learning Smith's defense. An ankle injury in the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers sidelined him for the remainder of camp. 

It was in the film room where Greenard began to hone in his skills. Watching tape allowed him to prepare mentally for practice. Once healthy, the pass rusher returned to the starting lineup with a boom. 

Greenard has been the most consistent of Houston's defensive linemen when if comes to pressuring the quarterback. In his first start against the Carolina Panthers in Week 3, he recorded a sack on Sam Darnold. In Week 5 against the New England Patriots, rookie QB Mac Jones was his next victim, 

Houston's 31-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts wasn't a total disaster. Greenard recorded a pair of sacks on Carson Wentz, along with two tackles for losses. 

"He can rush," Smith said. "He's a legitimate rusher on the outside. He has good size to play the run also and he's just coming into his own." 

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That would be an understatement. On a team that ranks 28th in sacks, Greenard is responsible for nearly half of Houston's production. He leads the team with four sacks and five tackles for losses. 

Fellow defensive end Whitney Mercilus ranked second in sacks with three prior to his release Tuesday. The remaining Texans on the d-line have three sacks combined. 

Smith wants to pressure Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray into making mistakes Sunday. Naturally, containing a dual-threat quarterback is the goal, but stopping the former No. 1 pick has been a problem for even the best of teams. 

The mobile Murray has been sacked 12 times this season.

Smith is hoping fellow defensive end Jacob Martin and others elevate their game also. With Mercilus gone, the hope is the youth movement can take over and provide consistency off the edge. 

Maybe that will happen against the Cardinals offensive line, as Greenard continues to maximize his value and show his worth as the team's go-to pass rusher. 

Smith sees room for improvement in Greenard's overall game, thus providing Houston a building block off the edge for the new staff.

"He left at least one sack on the field last week," Smith said. "He's a guy that can do some things."