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Houston Texans Training Camp Battles: Defensive Line

The Houston Texans The defensive line group as a whole was not good in 2021. Outside of defensive end Jonathan Greenard, who led the team with eight sacks in just 12 games, there was no other player on the roster who has approached this production. Defensive end Jacob Martin finished second on the team with just four sacks. Martin is now playing for the New York Jets.

General manager Nick Caserio and head coach Lovie Smith knew a change was needed. For Smith’s defense to work, there needs to be constant pressure on the quarterback and that didn’t happen enough last season.

Early in the offseason, the Texans signed outside linebacker Ogbo Okoronkwo to a one-year contract. Okoronkwo was a force in college, racking up 20 sacks and 33 tackles for loss at Oklahoma. Okoronkwo is now entering his fourth year in the league and hasn’t had many opportunities on a stack Los Angeles Rams defensive line but has the opportunity to potentially become an impact player in Houston. Okoronkwo has 4.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 5 tackles for loss throughout his league career.

A majority of fans and members of the media assumed the Texans would draft a dominant passing thrower early in the 2022 draft, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, Caserio signed a few rushers after the draft. The Texans signed Rasheem Green, who was with the Seattle Seahawks last season and posted career bests. Green had 6.5 sacks while playing limited snaps. Green has 13.5 career sacks and is only 25 years old. This signing has flown a little under the radar of Texans fans and he could play an important role heading into the season.

The Texans also signed defensive ends Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes, who are both older but can still play at a high level. Addison has 67 career sacks and seven of them last season with the Buffalo Tickets. Jerry Hughes, who was also with the Bills last season, has 58 career sacks and two of them last season. Adding these two players could end up paying huge dividends for Houston due to their immense success and experience in the league.

One player who could find success in 2022 is defensive end Jordan Jenkins, who was signed by Houston last offseason. Jenkins has been productive in the league, racking up seven sacks in 2018 and eight sacks in 2019 with the New York Jets. Jenkins has only played 11 games in 2021 and has 2.5 sacks. Jenkins will be looking to bounce back in 2022 and prove he can still produce consistently.

Perhaps the Houston Texans’ strong point on the team is their defensive tackle group. Maliek Collins bounced back in Houston throughout the first year with the team after a difficult stint with the Las Vegas Raiders. Collins played well enough that the Texans rewarded him with a two-year extension earlier this offseason. Lovie Smith thinks of Collins’ world and said this about her recently:

Roy Lopez has been a surprise player throughout training camp and the 2021 season. Lopez certainly made some rookie mistakes, but that’s okay. Lopez started nearly every game for Houston as a sixth-round draft rookie. Lopez is expected to continue growing as she enters the second year of Lovie Smith’s system.

The Texans drafted Ross Blacklock in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and he wasn’t the player the Texans were hoping for. Blacklock has had limited opportunities since arriving in Houston, but has still shown his ability to play at times. Blacklock has a lot to prove and is entering his third year with the Texans. Blacklock is still only 24 years old and still has plenty of room to grow. If there’s anyone who can turn a player around and get the most out of it, it’s Lovie Smith.

The Texans recently added another point guard thanks to draft Thomas Booker. Booker was a starter for three years and team captain at Stanford and should have opportunities as the season progresses.