Deshaun Watson was sacked a league-high 62 times last year, and the Texans are hoping Matt Kalil will be up to the task at left tackle.
After he was sacked a league-high 62 times last year and having the highest percentage of dropbacks under pressure according to Pro Football Focus, the Houston Texans made an effort to upgrade Deshaun Watson’s protection this offseason. Two of their first three draft picks were offensive tackles (Tytus Howard, Max Scharping), and Matt Kalil was signed in free agency.
Saturday night against the Detroit Lions, Roderick Johnson started at left tackle in Kalil’s place. A foot injury suffered during last Wednesday’s joint practice against the Lions was an easy reason to sit out, but according to the Houston Chronicle head coach Bill O’Brien said the injury was not the reason Kalil didn’t play. He followed that with a declaration of who the Texans’ starting left tackle is:
“I didn’t want him to play. He’ll play next week. Just managing reps throughout the preseason, that’s all that is. Matt Kalil is the starting left tackle”
Kalil missed all of last season with the Carolina Panthers due to a knee injury. He played all 16 games the previous season, in the first year of a five-year, $55 million contract, but even with a good late-season stretch he finished just No. 53 among qualified offensive tackles by PFF grade.
Before that, a hip injury cost Kalil all but two games in 2016, his last season with the Minnesota Vikings, and persistent knee issues led to a drop in play in the preceding seasons. A Pro Bowl season as a rookie in 2012, after the Vikings took him fourth-overall in that year’s draft, has become a distant memory no matter the cause of his drop-off.
By all accounts, Johnson did well in Kalil’s place against Detroit. A lingering open competition for any starting position heading into the dress rehearsal third preseason game is not ideal in most situations, so O’Brien quickly squashed the notion by declaring Kalil will be the guy at left tackle. But a glimpse at a bit of history makes that easily subject to change and rightfully so.
The Texans could still add someone to the mix at left tackle, via a trade or signing as other teams start to make cuts. But for now, Kalil is the man charged with protecting Watson’s blind side making for a purely theoretical upgrade over what Houston put forth last year.