HOUSTON – The heftiest investments for the Texans’ roster has been their expensive and necessary spending at the offensive line position to protect rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud
That includes a three-year, $75 million contract extension that made Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil the highest paid offensive lineman in the league for the second time. The Texans traded for and signed former New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive guard Shaq Mason to a three-year, $36 million deal. And the Texans signed right tackle Tytus Howard to a three-year, $56 million deal.
Once well-fortified across the line, the Texans are adjusting to a myriad of injuries at the position as they prepare for the opening game of the season against the Baltimore Ravens.
Although Howard practiced Monday while wearing a large cast on his surgically repaired left hand, he is regarded as a long shot to play in the game and veteran lineman George Fant is expected to start at right tackle, according to league sources. Howard hasn’t fully recovered from the injury and is still dealing with the swelling after breaking two bones in his hand during training camp, undergoing surgery and having metal hardware inserted.
“Tytus is still working, day to day,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said. “We’ll see where he ends up.”
In the wake of left guard Kenyon Green being placed on injured reserve with a torn labrum in his shoulder, the Texans are expected to plug in former Arizona Cardinals and University of Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones as his replacement, per sources.
The Texans acquired Jones in a trade, sending a 2024 fifth-round draft pick to the Cardinals for the George Bush graduate and a 2024 seventh-round selection.
And, because rookie starting center Juice Scruggs, a second-round draft pick from Penn State, was placed on short-term injured reserve with a strained hamstring in the wake of former starting center Scott Quessenberry out for the entire season with torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, the Texans are making their third lineup change at center before the season has even officially started.
The Texans traded a 2025 sixth-round draft pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for center-guard Kendrick Green and the former third-round draft pick from Illinois is expected to start against the Ravens, per sources.
“We’re still working through the offensive line,” Ryans said, “We go out to gameday, we’ll have a good group out there. And guys who are tasked with just doing the job that’s in front of them, whoever that may be, we just want guys to be accountable to their teammates and do what’s asked of them.”
It’s been a lot for the line to adapt to, and it has been loss after loss across the line. That started before training camp when swing tackle Charlie Heck was sidelined with a back condition that is affecting his foot and has landed him on the reserve-physically unable to perform list.
“Every team has injuries,” Mason said. “It’s been tough, guys falling as of late, but it’s part of the league. Guys have to step up. It’s the next guy up mentality. That’s why different guys are in and out. Whoever is out there in Baltimore, they’re expected to go out and perform. We try to bring guys along. We’re counting on them.”
Protecting Stroud against a Ravens defense that had 48 sacks last season is a top priority.
As he prepares for his first NFL regular-season game, Stroud needs to have sufficient time in the pocket to find his downfield targets.
“The offensive line is important, no matter who is playing at quarterback,” Ryans said. “We have C.J., a young quarterback, whichever quarterback lines up back there, you want to make sure he has great protection upfront. It will always be a high priority to me amongst the offensive and defensive line because I feel like that’s how you win games. It starts up front and that will never change. Try to go out with a subpar (offensive) line or a subpar (defensive) line, you’re going to be in for a long day.”
Texans veteran safety Jimmie Ward didn’t practice Monday. He has been dealing with a groin injury and recently underwent a dental procedure.
Texans linebacker Blake Cashman had a setback recently with a strained hamstring and remains sidelined at practice.
And fellow starting linebacker Christian Harris didn’t practice He was jogging prior to the start of practice in uniform except for his helmet, which is the same activity level he had last week. At this time, Harris’ injury isn’t regarded as anything serious.
The Texans’ top backup linebackers are Jake Hansen and Henry To’oTo’o.
“Injuries happen all the time in football, so you have to be ready to adjust,” Ryans said. “It’s never how you want it, it’s never the same 53 guys. There are always injuries. There’s always things you have to be ready to adapt and change with, so that’s just normal, NFL football.
“It happens every week, and for us, unfortunately it’s happened sooner, before the start of the season. But it’s something we have to deal with and we’re not whining about it. We’re not complaining. We’re going to push through. We’re all professionals, and that’s what guys have to go play football.”
NOTES The Texans negotiated injury settlements with defensive tackle Roy Lopez (strained hamstring, four weeks) and offensive guard Keaton Sutherland (strained abductor, four to six weeks), removing them from injured reserve.
Lopez has drawn immediate interest from multiple NFL teams, per a league source.
An early candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year who had a strong preseason that included a sack and forced fumble against the Miami Dolphins, rookie defensive end Will Anderson Jr. is an immediate starter against the Ravens.
“Will is in a great spot,” Ryans said. “I think Will has been consistent all throughout training camp, throughout the preseason. He’s been one of our most consistent players, one of our most physical players, dominant on the edge. So, Will has done everything we’ve asked him to do and we couldn’t be happier with where Will is right now.”
Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com