Texans Positional Outlook: A Decision on D.J. Reader Looms Large

Patrick D. Starr

In 2019, the Houston Texans defensive line took a hit with the lack of playmakers up front. With the exit of Jadeveon Clowney before the start of the season in a trade with Seattle. Plus, an injury to J.J. Watt that resulted in him missing half of the season.

Calling themselves the "Lunch Pail Crew," the defensive line was a group of run stuffers with little pass rush ability from the interior.

Here is a closer look at the Texans' defensive line heading into 2020.

Defensive Lineman

Starters- DT D.J. Reader (UFA), DT Brandon Dunn (UFA), DE J.J. Watt

Backups- DE Carlos Watkins, DE Eddie Vanderdoes, DE Charles Omeninu, DE Angelo Blackson, DE *Ira Savage-Lewis

The season of J.J. Watt is one for the storybooks. Tearing his pectoral in week eight, he was able to return to the practice field late in the season and return to the season for the playoffs. Watt led the team with 20 quarterback hits despite not playing in eight games. D.J. Reader proved for the second season in a row showed he is more than a two-down player. Reader can play both the run and pass from the interior. Brandon Dunn teamed with Reader was a solid run-stuffing duo.

Angelo Blackson played better in the second half of the season and was the only player in the NFL to block two field-goal attempts on the season. Charles Omenihu had flashes of being a standout pass rusher, but he has plenty to do to refine his game heading into year two.

Outlook for the Defensive Line Heading into 2020

The Texans defensive line will be anchored by J.J. Watt heading into 2020, but he will need help for multiple reasons. Watt still showed he could get to the quarterback, but his health remains a question mark with the type of season-ending injuries he has endured the second half of his career.

Questions arise on the future of D.J. Reader with the Texans, especially after the team worked to try to re-sign him before the start of the season to no avail. It might not be wise to tag Reader due to the high number it would be for a defensive lineman, and it is lining up that he could test the market when free agency arrives.

If Reader exits, it could mean bringing back their next best run-stuffer in Brandon Dunn rises on their off-season to-do list.

JJ Watt | Brandon Dunn | DJ Reader
Mark J. Rebilas-USA Today

Charles Omenihu has all of the skill set you want from a young player, but he will have to continue to refine his skill as a player. Omenihu is going to have to improve on his run defense to show he is more than just a pass-rushing option heading into year two.

Finding a more dynamic presence inside could help the Texans moving forward. The team has always targeted bigger run-stuffing defensive lineman to hold up in the run. Stopping the run first remains the defensive mentality, and it starts with that personnel the team looks for.

The future of Reader in a Texans uniform hangs in the balance, and if he exits, the team will have to work to find starter material in free agency or the draft to replace his production. 

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