With OTAs beginning at the Houston Methodist Training Center this week, many players will now be battling to either stay on the roster or earn playing time on the field. One position where one of these battles is expected to take place is left tackle, where players such as Julie’n Davenport, Martinas Rankin, Seantrel Henderson, and UDFAs like Jaryd Jones-Smith will compete to see who will be the one to protect Deshaun Watson’s blind side.
This position will be especially important in 2018, because the Texans left tackle spot was one of the worst in football, and led to Texans quarterbacks experiencing a whopping 252 pressures that led to the injuries of quarterbacks T.J. Yates and Tom Savage. If the left tackle spot isn’t shored up soon, these injuries could continue to pile up and even lead to franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson getting hurt.
📺: NFLN/FOX pic.twitter.com/oL9EUa9Sni
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) April 28, 2018
All the players who could potentially earn the starting left tackle job are Julie’n Davenport, Martinas Rankin, Seantrel Henderson, Jaryd Jones-Smith, Kendall Lamm, Kendall Calhoun, and Anthony Coyle. Julie’n Davenport has been the favorite to win the starting job for awhile, but his competition for the job will be stiff.
Martinas Rankin, a rookie out of Mississippi State is extremely talented and versatile, which could lead to him overtaking Davenport in training camp. Scouts also note that Rankin has the size, length, and agility to stop rushers on the outside, something Texans offensive lineman simply couldn’t do last season (as evidenced by the 252 pressures).
Furthermore, Rankin has shown exceptional strength and efficiency as a run blocker, which will be important for a Texans offense that finished 25th in rushing touchdowns last season.
It is almost a certainty that Rankin will shore up the tackle spot for years to come, but for this season he may fall short of being a full-fledged starter. Nonetheless, he will provide the greatest threat to Julie’n Davenport’s playing time.
Another player to keep in mind is free agent signing Seantrel Henderson, who could sneak up and snag the starting job. A seventh round pick out of Miami, Henderson played four seasons for the Bills, but his inefficiency led to him becoming a free agent.
Texans general manager Brian Gaine, who worked for the Bills in 2017, signed Henderson soon after he hit free agency. Now that he is in Houston, the monstrous 6’7″, 330 pound Henderson could use his size and strength to challenge for the starting left tackle job.
The final player who has a realistic shot at being the starting left tackle in 2018 is undrafted free agent out of the University of Pittsburgh: Jaryd Jones-Smith.
Standing at a massive 6’7″, 317 pounds, Jones-Smith was projected to be a fourth or fifth round pick in the NFL Draft after a successful college career with the Panthers, but sadly he would end up not being drafted at all. Soon after this, the Texans signed Jones-Smith in hopes that he could compete for the starting left tackle job.
They believe he could potentially be a starter for the team because of his large frame and length, both of which allow him to control defenders from the line of scrimmage. He also had his fair share of snaps against Bradley Chubb, and actually did quite well against him, which for many is a sign for great things to come for the raw athlete.
Undrafted OT Jaryd Jones-Smith could emerge as starter for Texans https://t.co/gHxa7pl0QK
— The Texans Wire (@TheTexansWire) April 29, 2018
Although Jones-Smith most likely won’t become a starter this season, his raw talent and measurables will eventually make him a cornerstone to the offensive line.
Other players like Kendall Lamm, Kendall Calhoun, and Anthony Coyle could potentially make a run at the starting gig, but it is almost a certainty that they will either be cut from the roster or become a bench player.
Overall, the competition between Julie’n Davenport, Martinas Rankin, and Jaryd Jones-Smith to become the Texans starting left tackle looks to be a good one during training camp.