With banged up O-line, depth proves key

With banged up O-line, depth proves key
October 5, 2013, 9:00 am
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Ben Jones made his first NFL start on Oct. 21 against the Baltimore Ravens.

(USA Today Images)

Duane Brown is ready to return to game action after missing two weeks. But the Texans will be missing another offensive lineman.

Brandon Brooks has a toe injury – he said it’s kind of like the injury Brown, who missed two weeks, had – and hasn’t practiced this week. He won’t play on Sunday.  

“The good thing about our depth is that we have knowledgeable depth,” said veteran swing tackle Ryan Harris. “We have guys who have been here and understand the system. You never want to see people go down and we’re a better team with everybody healthy but it’s the NFL, you’re going to have injuries.”

Harris was re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason to rejoin the Texans. The 28-year-old is a former starter but he said that’s not what drives him anymore. He claims he prepares as if he’s a starter every week. And he did a pretty good job spelling the All-Pro Brown for two weeks.

“Ryan did a great job stepping in,” Brown said. “Had some really stout competition up there in Baltimore and against Seattle. And I wasn't worried at all that he wouldn't go out there and perform well. He's been a very good player for a long time in this league so hats off to him.”

The Texans will need another big performance from a backup this weekend with Brooks out. Fellow second-year lineman Ben Jones will start.

Jones actually won the starting job from Antoine Caldwell as a rookie and eventually split snaps with Brooks. Coming into camp this year, however, Brooks was the new starting right guard and Jones was relegated to the backup guard and center.

“Anytime during the game, if they need to put me in there, or they need me to play the whole game, I want them to feel confident in me,” Jones said.

This will be Jones’ first start of the 2013 season after starting nine in 2012.

“Ben, since he got here, has been a very bright guy,” offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. “He swings it inside and can handle all of the three (positions). He’s really progressed. I think, obviously, he might have a chance to play a little bit more. He’s worked on it and I think he’ll do fine. He’ll be in sync with the rest of the guys up front because he’s been practicing and played a lot last year.”

Against the Seahawks last week, Jones spelled Wade Smith for a series. If Smith needs to come out for a series in Sunday’s game, Cody White would be the next guard into the game. Smith has been a mentor of sorts for Jones since he entered the league.

“Wade's definitely a guy I leaned on,” Jones said. “He's a great guy because he really understands the game and I swear I asked him something about every play because I spent more time watching him on tape than I actually did myself because I wanted to learn what he did because he was doing it the right way and the way coach wanted it.”