By far and away the largest weakness for the Houston Texans during the 2017 season was the offensive line. Every player on the offensive line was the worst, or one of the worst, at their position. Their 252 pressures allowed to the quarterback was the second largest total over the past 12 seasons, which makes it imperative that the Texans make improvements over the offseason. This is because superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson is the key to the Texans making a playoff run, so him suffering repeated hits could jeopardized his health and future. But before the Texans can build for the future, they must look at the present, and review the performance of their offensive lineman over the 2017 season: and it’s not pretty.
Jeff Allen – Offensive Guard – F
Will say this about Brian Gaine: I want him to move on from Jeff Allen and XSF, even if they have to take a slight hit with the quality of their replacements. It’s the principle. Roster spots should be considered a privilege. https://t.co/VgPp7OV42W
— Matt Hammond (@MattHammondShow) January 16, 2018
After a strong 2015 season for the Kansas City Chiefs, the Texans signed Allen to a four-year, 28 million dollar contact. Allen hasn’t performed to the level that was expected of him, being ranked 50th at run blocking and 73rd at pass blocking this season according to Pro Football Focus. This horrific pass blocking probably played a role in the Texans allowing a whopping 252 pressures, pressures that led to the injuries of quarterbacks T.J. Yates and Tom Savage. Overall, Allen was ranked as the 72nd guard in football in his second season with the Texans. Many are calling for the Texans to dump Allen and save salary cap, which is probably the best course of action, because Allen is currently just empty contract. If the Texans don’t get rid of Allen, he could endanger the health of Deshaun Watson, because his awful pass blocking could lead to Watson getting hit repeatedly and even injured. Allen’s horrific 2017 campaign leads to him receiving the worst grade possible: an “F”.
Xavier Su’a-Filo – Offensive Guard – F
Drafted in the second round out of UCLA in 2014, Su’a-Filo is another player who’s led to the Texans offensive line being one of the worst in football. Su’a-Filo was awful in both passing blocking (ranked 68th) and run blocking (ranked 76th), landing him as the 79th guard in football. His run blocking is particularly concerning, and surely was a factor in Lamar Miller having one of the worst statistical seasons of his career. Looking towards the future, Su’a-Filo should be resigned, mainly because he is at worst an extremely cheap depth piece. Unlike Jeff Allen, who makes a substantial hit to the salary cap, Su’a-Filo is a fairly cheap player to hold onto. There is a reason Su’A-Filo was a second round draft pick, and hopefully he can show Texans fans why in the near future. But looking at the present, Su’A-Filo had a horrible season, and thus deserves a failing grade.
Greg Mancz – Center/Offensive Guard – F
Greg Mancz has been shifted around constantly this season and only started in seven games this year. On top of being shifted from guard to center, Mancz also suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss some time. An undrafted tackle out of Toledo, Mancz was the starting center for the Texans in 2016, but had his job taken away in the 2017 preseason by rookie Nick Martin. Ranked as the 71st tackle in football with an abysmal 39.0 grade on Pro Football Focus, Mancz has taken a major step back from his breakout 2016 season. Because of the versatility Mancz displayed, shifting from center to guard, he deserves to stay with the team and be a depth piece, but this shouldn’t take away from how bad he played during the season. Mancz will have a very, very, very long way to go if he wants to be a starter and improve from the “F” grade he receives for 2017.
Breno Giacomini – Offensive Tackle – F-
Out of all the terrible offensive lineman the Texans had, Giacomini takes the cake, with a depressing 32.7 grade on football focus, a grade that designates him as the 84th tackle in football. Signed as a free agent from the Jets, Giacomini is the main reason why Texans pass blocking was by far and away the worst in football. His glaring lack of speed, agility, and quickness led to Giacomini ranking next to last among offensive tackles in total quarterback pressures and pass blocking efficiency ranking. Giacomini should be cut immediately and is overall a terrible offensive lineman. I’m personally shocked Giacomini was signed and started all 16 games for the Houston Texans, despite him repeatedly putting up dreadful performances. He’s so bad in fact, that I’m giving him an even lower grade than an “F”: an “F-“.
Nick Martin – Center – F+
A second round pick out of Notre Dame, rookie Nick Martin took the starting center job away from Greg Mancz during the preseason, and continued to start all 14 games of the season. This string of good health for Martin was abruptly ended in a Week 15 matchup against the Jaguars, where he suffered a season-ending ankle injury. During the 14 weeks preceding the ankle injury, Martin still had a horrible season, being ranked as the 30th center in football with a 44.9 grade on Pro Football Focus. Despite having a terrible season, Martin still did better than any other Texans offensive lineman, especially in terms of pass blocking. While he wasn’t even an average pass blocker, almost every Texans offensive lineman ranked among the worst in football. Martin was just mediocre, with a 54.7 pass blocking grade on Pro Football Focus, but it was still better than many of his teammates. Although Martin is by no means a good player, he deserves a slightly better grade than all the other Texans lineman, and that is why he receives an “F+” grade.
Chris Clark – Offensive Tackle – F
Clark, a 32 year old veteran who had a five year stint with the Broncos before signing with the Texans in 2015, was one the players that made the Texans left tackle spot one of the worst, if not the worst, in football. This is highly concerning, because the left tackle defends the Deshaun Watson’s “blind spot”, the area that the he won’t see defenders coming from. No tackle for the Texans, particularly Clark, could protect this precious area, and this played a role in Watson being injured during practice, and quarterbacks Tom Savage and T.J. Yates both being injured in-game over a three week span. Ranked 77th in pass blocking and 76th in run blocking, Clark was one of the worst tackles in football. He and Giacomini are both hitting free agency this offseason, and should be immediately let go. Because of Clark’s horrible season, and his inability to protect the “blind spot”, he deserves an “F” grade.
Overall Grade – F
The Texans offensive line is overall a terrible position group, probably the worst in the NFL, and needs to be improved immediately. Getting rid of players like Breno Giacomini, Jeff Allen, and Chris Clark would be a good start, but generally manager Brian Gaine also needs to look towards the draft and free agency. Gaine must give an honest effort to improve an offensive line that, if not improved, will surely have Deshaun Watson suffering far more than just one injury over his NFL career. If Watson continues to be exposed to repeated hits and pressures, he won’t be able to stay healthy, which would destroy any hope of a Texans playoff run. Since the Texans traded their only solid lineman, Duane Brown, to the Seahawks, Gaine must use the fifth and second round picks they got in that trade to draft young lineman who can improve the currently abysmal situation.