With Newton back, Texans need to shore up right side

With Newton back, Texans need to shore up right side
December 14, 2012, 8:00 am
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The left side of the Texans’ offensive line hasn’t been the problem.

Left tackle Duane Brown, left guard Wade Smith and center Chris Myers have done a pretty good job protecting Matt Schaub’s blind side.

The right side of the offensive line?

Not so much.

Let’s just say Schaub sees a lot of opposing players breaking through. But the good news is that starting right tackle Derek Newton had his best day of practice in consecutive days on Wednesday and Thursday and looks prepared to join the starting lineup on Sunday against the Colts. In fact, Newton said that when Sunday comes, hell be “100 percent and ready to go.”

For the Texans, that’s excellent news.

“It will be big,” All-Pro caliber left tackle Brown said. “It was unfortunate that he got hurt. He was really coming along really well. I think he has a chance to be a great player. I’m excited to have him back. He has a big challenge with those two that they have. But he’s looking forward to it, and I’m looking forward to watching him.”

But even when Newton is in the lineup, the Texans have struggled on the right side of the offensive line. It becomes pretty evident that the right side is struggling when looking at the following stats; the Texans don’t run the ball to the right side nearly as much as they do to the left.

According to ProFootballFocus, Arian Foster has had 189 runs to the left side of the line, 55 behind the center, but just 86 runs behind the right side of the line. They run to the right more with other backs.

Rookie right guard Ben Jones said that while they might not run to the right as often, sometimes the blocks on the opposite side of the run are just as – if not more – important.  

“That’s what we try to be: consistent,” Jones said. “You have your ups and downs.”

Newton hurt his right knee against the Lions on Thanksgiving on a pass play. He said as he back-pedaled, he felt a sharp pain in the joint. By the time he made it to the sideline, he said, he could barely walk.

Last week, in preparation for the game against the Patriots, Newton was able to practice some, but was unable to play when Monday night rolled around. He had been listed as a game-time decision all last week. Newton said there wasn’t a setback in practice last week, just some lingering pain, which is why the Texans landed on the decision to not play him last week.

In his absence, Jones was flanked by veteran Ryan Harris, who had been splitting reps with Newton in the previous weeks of the season.

Against the Patriots, according to PFF, every member of the left side of the line (center and left) had a positive grade, which means they won more plays than they lost. Jones was a negative-3.6 and Harris was a negative-2.1.

“It was bad. A game like that, I wanted to be out there,” Newton said. “But at the same time, had faith in my teammates that they were going to go out and do their part. I just watched it on TV and hoped for the best.”

Just because Newton is back and healthy, it doesn’t mean he’ll play all the snaps. Offensive lines, for the most part, are built on cohesion. And this offensive line hasn’t had a chance to gel. Sure, they’ve had some injuries to deal with but even before those injuries, they were using a rotation at both right guard and tackle.

“They’re trying to find out who they want to work over there in those spots,” Brown said. “In order to do that, you have to get them in game situations to see how they react.”

But now they’ve seen how those players react. They’ve seen it for 13 games this season. Surely, they must ride whichever players they think are best for the rest of the season and into the playoffs, right?

“I’m not sure,” Brown said. “I guess we’ll see.”

I guess we will. 

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