Texans' Season Rests on Offensive Line

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Watching the Houston Texans the past month, the offense has been nothing short of being a shade of what it has been during the season. At times the offense has looked like a well oiled machine and has moved the ball efficiently and at times has scored with ease.

Fast forward to one of the most important times of the season, the offensive line looks like it has taken a complete step back especially after the Minnesota Vikings came in and took an important game from the Texans. The offensive line was consistently getting walked back into the backfield creating zero running lanes for Arian Foster and caused Matt Schaub to have his worst performance of the season. No offensive lineman this past Sunday had a game they should be proud of and the team was visibly frustrated with their performance.

What makes this even one of the most puzzling position groups for the Texans is the fact that the three veterans of the group Chris Myers, Wade Smith and Duane Brown all made the 2013 Pro Bowl Team. Despite all of the struggles and apparent step back from the 2011 group with Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston, we had to take a closer look at the seasons they put together.

2011 vs. 2012 Offensive Lines

*2012 season is only 15 games, where 2011 has all 16 games. 

  • The Texans in 2012 have had a total of 55 negative rushes compared to the 53 in 2011. There is still one game to go but this is one of the big issues especially at the end of the season. 
  • In 2012 the Texans have had more negative rushes to the left side of the offensive line where Duane Brown and Wade Smith have both made the Pro Bowl.
  • The Texans in 2012 have combined for 96 hits and sacks on the quarterback averaging 6.2 a game (15), compared to 101 in 2011 where it ended up being 6.3 a contest. Despite less sacks, they have let Schaub take much more hits than the team would like.
  • The big stat is the 1st down runs to the right. 62 in 2011 compared to only 40 in 2012. This has made the offense a left-handed offense in the run game, especially in key downs.
  • The average rush is down .4 yards a carry but the touchdowns on the ground are consistent from last season.
  • Also, the experience of the offensive line plays a huge role for the Texans, 340 total games between all the lineman that played compared to 273 in 2012. In 2011, it made the Texans the 15th most experienced group compared to 20th in 2012.

The Texans, if anything, need to stop with the rotation on the right side of the line and stick with that group. Ben Jones and Derek Newton have been getting the majority of the snaps this season, with Brandon Brooks and Ryan Harris rotating in every third series of the game. It is no secret the Texans want Newton to get the majority of the snaps and Harris is nothing but an insurance plan for Newton. Newton has better pass protection skills but Harris has better concept of what to do in the run game.

As for Jones, he has taken a step back from bursting onto the scene taking veteran Antoine Caldwell's job from him at right guard. Jones has had issues with bigger defensive lineman and played below expectations. Call it fatigue or loss of confidence, Jones has struggled of late and caused some big issues for the offense. Brooks has stepped in and taken snaps, getting some much needed experience. With weight being an issue for the 340 lbs. guard, Brooks has earned playing time and shown flashes of when he can do. He is so strong and knows how to finish blocks in the run department but he has his rookie mistakes which makes him a liability.

Gary Kubiak needs to stick to one unit up front and roll with them for the remainder of the season and playoffs. Ben Jones and Derek Newton need to take all the snaps on the right side as they are the ones with the most experience. The eye test shows the group as a whole has taken a step back, but the playoff chances for the Texans rest on the offensive line. The success of the offense rests on their ability to get a push-off the line of scrimmage and open up the rest of the playbook. If the Texans cannot run the football, it will hamper the rest of the offense and the past three weeks have been a testament to that.

It is time for this offensive line to earn their stripes and prove that they can carry this offense to where they need to go.

You can follow Patrick on Twitter. He is the Editor of State of the Texans.