Texans run game benefits from drafting either Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal

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The Houston Texans’ run game was as present in 2021 as Maynard G. Krebs at a job fair.

The Texans couldn’t get anything going on the ground with a paltry 3.4 yards per carry and 83.6 yards per game — both the worst in the NFL.

Houston’s problem with the run game isn’t limited to the 2021 season. In the year prior, the Texans generated 4.3 yards per carry (tied for 14th most) and 91.6 yards per game (second fewest). Having a respectable run game has been a problem in Houston since Carlos Hyde crested the 1,000-yard mark in 2019.

If the Texans are to fix their run game, they may need to make a big investment in the offensive line, which could mean taking a lineman in Round 1 of the 2022 NFL draft.

The Texans currently hold two Round 1 picks at Nos. 3 and 13 overall, which are perfect for them to take either NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu or Alabama’s Evan Neal.

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah ranked the two offensive linemen on a conference call on April 21.

“For me, I like Ekwonu. I know teams around the league are a little split around him because he’s kind of raw in pass pro [protection],” Jeremiah said. “But it’s all there. It’s all in his body. He’s a dominant, dominant run blocker who I think has some inside-outside ability.

“The interesting thing with him and with Evan Neal — and teams are split in terms of who the best guy is — they’ve both played inside and they’ve both played tackle. They allow you to get your best five on the field.”

The Texans already have two dominant tackles in Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard. Adding either Ekwonu or Neal would place the rookie inside at a guard spot while Tunsil and Howard maintained protection along the edges.

Another name Jeremiah brought into the offensive lineman discussion was Mississippi State’s Charles Cross.

“For me he’s the third guy, but I know in terms of pass protection he’s pretty polished,” said Jeremiah.

If the Texans go with an offensive lineman, it would be more so to help the run game than the pass protection, as picking Cross would be redundant to what they already have at tackle.

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