Texans vs. Titans: All I Want for Christmas Is an Offensive Line

Mark C. Austin

Schaub could be out for the rest of the season

I’ll keep today’s lesson short and sweet.

I know you want the Texans to find a game-breaking running back in the 2008 draft. So do I. I know you want to see the team address major needs in the secondary, too. And, hey, as long as you’re filling out that Christmas wish list, you might as well put a pure edge rusher on there as well.

But let me be perfectly clear: this team is going absolutely nowhere until it finally makes the offensive line its top priority.

This isn’t a new story, of course. Ever since Houston chose Tony Boselli with the number one pick of the expansion draft, the Texans’s offensive line has been a disaster. It’s already responsible for the gruesome murder of David Carr’s confidence and career (although, to be fair, Carr did plenty to contribute to his own demise), and its next victim may very well turn out to be the newly-acquired — and very expensive — Matt Schaub. In the first quarter of Houston’s 28-20 defeat at the hands of Tennessee, the new No. 8 was forced to leave mid-game for the third time this season. Turns out, that number may very well stay put because the dislocated left shoulder Schaub suffered on the play could keep him on the sideline for the rest of the season.

My intent is not to pin all the blame on the club’s O-line. The rest of the team has just as many holes. But — pardon the cliché — football is won in the trenches and right now, the Texans simply don’t have the hogs to consistently compete up front. During the unit’s best moments — and those have been few and far between — you could perhaps call it a notch above mediocre. But far too often, the group’s play ranges from poor to pathetic.

Injuries have played a big role, to be sure. The aforementioned Boselli never set foot on the field in a Texans uniform. Promising 2006 rookie Charles Spencer has missed the better part of two seasons now, and who knows how he’ll perform when he finally does return. And this year has seen Steve McKinney, Fred Weary and Chris White all go down with season-ending injuries.

Still, injuries are a fact of life in the NFL and Houston has done a poor job of procuring depth. Here, the brunt of the blame falls on no one but Texans’ management. Only once in franchise history has Houston selected an O-lineman in the first two rounds (Chester Pitts was taken in the 2nd round in 2002). Quite simply, this team has never made the offensive line a priority, and it shows on the field.

On occasion, a superstar QB or running back can transcend a weak O-line (see Peyton Manning and Barry Sanders). But more often than not, sub par play up front sabotages an offense. And let’s face it, the Texans possess no one even remotely close to superstar status in their backfield, anyway.

So feel free to spend the coming months pining for sexy playmakers like Darren McFadden (not a chance) and Jonathan Stewart (should be available), if you wish. But if you truly want to see the Texans take a serious step toward becoming a respectable franchise, keep your fingers crossed that management targets a few “big uglies” early and often.

If they do, Texans fans will likely find next Christmas a whole lot merrier.- Jason Friedman


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