2 free agent defensive tackles ‘better’ than what the Texans have

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What does it say when the there are two free agent defensive tackles who rank better than what the Houston Texans have on their roster heading into training camp?

According to Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus, not one Texans defensive tackle qualified for the football scouting’s ranking of the top-32 defensive tackles in the league. At No. 31, where a Texans player could have gone, went free agent Sheldon Richardson.

Richardson is one of the notable veteran defensive tackles still on the market following his release from Cleveland. It takes little projection to see him making an immediate impact as a starter. Richardson has played at least 600 defensive snaps and recorded a PFF grade of at least 68.0 in every season since joining the league in 2013. PFF WAR ranks him as the eighth-most valuable interior defender in the league across those seven years. He should generate interest in the post-draft free agent market leading up to the 2021 season.

Another free agent defensive tackle who made the list while a Texans player didn’t was former Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. Adding that Casey would provide “quality depth” wherever he ends up in 2021, Linsey noted that the 6-1, 305-pounder had a 74.4 PFF grade through the first three games of last year on 150-plus snaps. It was a torn biceps that summarily ended Casey’s lone year with Denver.

The Texans are counting on veteran Maliek Collins and second-year Ross Blacklock to provide starting quality at defensive tackle. Houston also has options in third-year Charles Omenihu and 28-year-old Brandon Dunn, who is recovering from a pelvic fracture and transitioning from a 3-4 nose tackle to the tackle roles in Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2.

Defensive line coach Bobby King expects Blacklock to take a step in his development now that the 2020 second-rounder from TCU will have an actual offseason under his belt.

“I expect a lot out of him,” said King on June 8 on a Zoom call with reporters. “He’s been as advertised with the weight staff, with everybody so far and with me. I look forward to working with Ross.”

The Texans were the worst in the NFL at stopping the run at 5.2 yards per carry surrendered. One way for Texans defensive tackles to start making such lists is to get stiffer in rush defense.