Tytus Howard

Texans Shift Tytus Howard To LG

The Texans selected Tytus Howard in the first round of the 2019 draft, doing so with the thought that he might be the club’s long-term solution at left tackle. The pick was seen as something of a reach, and perhaps a panic move after the Eagles leapfrogged Houston to select Andre Dillard, who was the superior prospect. A few months later, the Texans swung a trade for LT Laremy Tunsil, and Howard opened his rookie season as the starting RT.

A torn meniscus ended Howard’s rookie campaign after just eight games, and last offseason was a difficult one for him, as he was recovering from the meniscus surgery along with a procedure to repair a broken finger. The lack of practices due to the pandemic also hurt; although he was entering his second season as a pro, he is an FCS (Alabama State) product who was always going to need a little extra time to reach his potential at the NFL level.

He still wound up starting 14 games at RT in 2020, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 61st-best tackle out of 79 qualifiers. Aaron Wilson of Sports Talk 790 attributes that less-than-impressive ranking to a slow start engendered by the offseason problems and the fact that Howard had to consistently bail out former right guard Zach Fulton, who yielded 11 sacks last year. Nonetheless, the team is now moving Howard to the interior and will line him up at left guard, per Wilson.

Howard played one game at LG in 2019, and the team tried him out at several different positions during training camp this year. But he was deployed at left guard during last week’s preseason game against the Cowboys, and that’s where he will open the 2021 season. He has the size, strength, and mean streak to thrive on the inside, and being sandwiched between Tunsil on the left and new center Justin Britt on the right will certainly help.

2020 fourth-rounder Charlie Heck is expected to start the season at RT, but Howard is perfectly amenable to a move back to the outside. It sounds like Houston is keeping him on his toes in case that should be necessary.

“Oh, yeah, I think I can just go back out and [play RT] again,” Howard said. “I practice it every day, so they prepare me for something like that.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Waive OT Roderick Johnson

The Texans activated Roderick Johnson and Tytus Howard from their reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, but only Howard will move forward with the team. Following Johnson’s move back to Houston’s active roster, the team waived him.

Johnson re-signed with the Texans this offseason, collecting $350K in fully guaranteed cash, but will hit waivers. The Texans placed Johnson, Howard and Laremy Tunsil on their reserve/COVID list last week, with Aaron Wilson of 790 Sports Talk noting (via Twitter) Johnson was a high-risk close contact. Players can only be classified as such if they have not been vaccinated.

A former Browns draftee, Johnson has been with the Texans since the 2018 offseason. He started six games over the past two seasons and played 245 snaps in 2020. However, offseason waiver claim Geron Christian — a former Washington starter at tackle — had surpassed him in training camp, per Wilson.

Houston has Tunsil in place as its left tackle, and its most recent depth chart has Howard sticking at right tackle. Trade acquisition Marcus Cannon resides behind Howard on the right side.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/13/21

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Chicago Bears

  • Waived: WR Thomas Ives

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Las Vegas Raiders

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

COVID-19 Latest: Browns, Texans, Panthers

The Browns have closed their facility and delayed their flight to New Jersey because of a positive COVID-19 test. They are performing contract tracing ahead of their scheduled noon CT Sunday game against the Jets. While the Browns placed Jedrick Wills on their reserve/COVID-19 list, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports the rookie left tackle did not test positive for the coronavirus. He and practice squad wideout Ryan Switzer are close contacts. However, Wills is expected to be pulled off the Browns’ virus list in order to start Sunday, Cabot adds. Cleveland indeed activated Wills off its reserve/COVID list but placed linebacker B.J. Goodson on it ahead of Sunday’s game. Goodson tested positive, Cabot reports. The Browns are planning to depart Cleveland at some point tonight, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets.

Here is the latest from the NFL’s COVID-19 front:

  • Deshaun Watson‘s restaurant opening has caused an issue for the Texans. Watson and other Houston players were photographed maskless at the recent indoor event, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Watson received a $7.5K fine. The Texans levied fines against some of his teammates as well, with ESPN.com’s Sarah Barshop noting Laremy Tunsil, Brandin Cooks and Tytus Howard were among those at the event.
  • Whitney Mercilus now resides on the Texans’ reserve/COVID-19 list, and the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson reports he tested positive for the virus (Twitter link). This is Mercilus’ second time on the COVID list; he landed there in November as a close contact of then-COVID-positive linebacker Jacob Martin. This will end Mercilus’ season — his ninth with the Texans. Thanks to his December 2019 extension, Mercilus is signed through the 2023 season.
  • The Panthersdustup with COVID earlier this month produced a series of fines. The team handed out fines of at least $10K to players who broke virus protocols during the team’s bye week earlier this month, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Wideouts D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel and Shaq Thompson, Derrick Brown and Greg Little were among those placed on the COVID list.
  • After the Broncos were forced to use practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback earlier this season, the NFL tweaked its protocol to help teams in the event similar trouble emerges. Players already receiving COVID testing will be permitted to make their debuts for new teams without having to take virus tests six days apart, Pelissero tweets. This would allow for a team to sign a player off another team’s practice squad late in the week and use him in a game in an emergency scenario.
  • Washington fined Dwayne Haskins $40K for breaking COVID protocols for the second time this season but did not suspend him.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/23/20

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves:

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Trade Notes: Harris, Texans, Geno, Browns

After trading Yannick Ngakoue, the Vikings appear to be reopening the door to dealing their franchise player. Anthony Harris is again available, per Albert Breer of SI.com. The Vikings discussed at least one tag-and-trade deal involving the 2019 breakout player-turned-tag recipient this offseason but moved forward with Harris as a starter for the third season. The price was believed to be a Day 2 pick at that point. Harris has more than half of his $11.4MM tag salary due. Harris joins safety mate Harrison Smith, tight end Kyle Rudolph and left tackle Riley Reiff as available Viking veterans.

Here is more from the trade market, with five days to go until the deadline:

  • We have heard trade rumors surrounding the bulk of the Texans‘ receiving corps. The Packers, among others, inquired about Will Fuller; Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks have also come up in talks. The Texans are prepared to part with any of their wideouts — for the right offer, of course. Every Texan except Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, Laremy Tunsil and right tackle Tytus Howard is available, Breer adds. Fuller and Kenny Stills are on expiring contracts; Cobb is signed through 2022; Cooks through ’23.
  • NFL INT leader Xavien Howard has surfaced as a name to watch ahead of the deadline. While the Dolphins have fielded calls on the fifth-year cornerback, they have not received a firm offer, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. The Dolphins also appear dead-set against dealing Howard, with Jackson adding that it would likely take multiple first-round picks (an unrealistic ask) for Miami to consider a deal. Howard is in the first season of a five-year, $75MM contract.
  • The Bengals traded all-time sack leader Carlos Dunlap to the Seahawks, and teams are wondering if the franchise’s No. 2 all-time sacker (Geno Atkins) is available. Teams have contacted the Bengals on the 11th-year defensive tackle but have been told he is not being traded, Breer notes. Atkins is signed through 2022, and although he has voiced frustration about his role, the Bengals will hang onto the perennial Pro Bowler.
  • In the thick of the AFC playoff race at 5-2, the Browns may still be dangling Olivier Vernon. Although the veteran defensive end came off Cleveland’s trade block this summer, the Browns shopped him for a while. They may be doing so again, with Breer indicating the 30-year-old edge rusher is being viewed as available. However, the Browns would move to replace the veteran opposite Myles Garrett. They were in on the first Nkagoue sweepstakes in August but lost out to the Vikings. In the final year of his contract, Vernon does not have a sack this season.
  • Entering their Week 8 game, the Panthers may be straddling the buyer-seller line at 3-4. However, they are still in a rebuilding phase in Matt Rhule‘s first season. Any buyer’s deal Carolina makes would be for a player controllable beyond this season rather than a rental who could help the team secure a wild-card spot, Joe Person of The Athletic writes (subscription required).
  • Prior to signing Mohamed Sanu as injury insurance this year, the 49ers finished second to the Patriots for Sanu at last year’s deadline. The 49ers offered the Falcons a third-round pick for Sanu, Breer notes, but the Pats gave up a second-round pick. San Francisco’s subsequent Emmanuel Sanders addition ended up being more impactful, and Sanu is currently training for his next opportunity.

Texans To Place T Tytus Howard On IR

The Texans will be without their starting right tackle the rest of the way. They are placing first-round pick Tytus Howard on IR, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. A torn meniscus will end Howard’s season, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport notes (via Twitter) the rookie will soon undergo surgery.

Howard previously carried a doubtful designation into Sunday night’s game against the Patriots, but the Texans will remove him from their 53-man roster. The small-school lineman will end his season with eight games (all starts). He had previously missed time due to a partially torn MCL.

The only first-round pick in GM Brian Gaine‘s brief Texans tenure, Howard was moved to guard before becoming Houston’s starting right tackle for most of this season. He graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 52 overall tackle. While that is a middle-of-the-pack position, Howard marked an improvement from the embattled tackle situation the Texans featured last season.

Houston has used Roderick Johnson as a fill-in for Howard previously this season. The former Browns draft pick has played in 11 games, with two starts, and has been given 201 snaps. The Texans also have veteran Chris Clark, a journeyman who has filled in at multiple junctures for the team. Clark has started games at both left and right tackles with Houston.

The Texans promoted defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes from their practice squad to take Howard’s roster spot. A former third-round Raiders pick, Vanderdoes caught on with the Texans’ taxi squad late last month.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Sanders, Cooper, Roby, Howard

The latest injury updates on key players around the league:

  • Emmanuel Sanders left the Broncos’ win over the Titans with a knee injury and was ruled out, but fortunately it isn’t anything longterm. The injury isn’t “at all serious,” James Palmer of NFL Network was told (Twitter link). In a follow-up tweet, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that there’s optimism Sanders will play in just a few days on Thursday Night Football against the Chiefs. Sanders is in the midst of his comeback season from a torn Achilles, so it’s great news that he isn’t seriously hurt.
  • The Cowboys have lost three straight games, including an embarrassing one to the Jets on Sunday, and the news could get even worse soon. Star receiver Amari Cooper left the game and was soon ruled out with a quad injury. Cooper was in “pretty significant pain” after the game, a source told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com (Twitter link). Obviously that’s not an official diagnosis, but it does sound like Cooper could miss some time. That’s the last thing this suddenly struggling Cowboys team needs.
  • The Texans picked up a big win over the Chiefs Sunday, but they couldn’t escape Kansas City unscathed. Starting cornerback Bradley Roby was knocked out of the game with a hamstring injury and will have an MRI tomorrow, according to Palmer (on Twitter). As Palmer points out fellow Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph is already sidelined with a hamstring issue, so this would be a huge blow to their secondary. Roby has been a bright spot on Houston’s defense this year, so this will definitely be one to monitor.
  • Roby wasn’t the only key member of the Texans to get hurt. Rookie first-round pick Tytus Howard had to be carted off with a knee injury, but fortunately it seems like he may have dodged a bullet. It didn’t look good for Houston’s starting right tackle, but Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets the initial diagnosis is that Howard did not tear his ACL. In a separate tweet, Wilson writes that head coach Bill O’Brien said that Howard’s injury “may have looked worse than it really was.” However, O’Brien did add “hopefully we can get him back at some point,” so it sounds like he’s going to miss some significant time. That’s a big blow to Deshaun Watson‘s protection, which has been surprisingly competent this season.

AFC South Rumors: Texans, Colts, Lee, Titans

Drafted to be the Texans‘ hopeful left tackle of the future, Tytus Howard has since been relocated to left guard (with Matt Kalil winning the left-edge job) and has now broken a finger. The rookie blocker suffered the break in Houston’s preseason game against Detroit on Saturday night, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Coming from a Division I-FCS program, and tasked with learning one of the most difficult positions at which to acclimate in the NFL, Howard needs all the reps he can get early on in his career. But this malady is not expected to keep him out of the Texans’ Week 1 game against the Saints, Wilson adds. Howard is in line to be the team’s starting left guard. This injury, in theory, could force the team to adjust those plans.

Here is the latest from the AFC South, shifting to perhaps the division’s most important player:

  • Frank Reich does not want to wait much longer on Andrew Luck‘s recovery. The second-year Colts coach wants to name his Week 1 starter shortly after the team’s third preseason game, and while Luck doing pregame drills before Indianapolis’ second August contest was a positive development, this saga may not wrap up in a week. It’s been the side-to-side movements that have bothered Luck’s ankle and calf injuries most, Mike Wells of ESPN.com notes. But Luck not only did some lateral-movement work before Saturday’s game, Wells adds the 29-year-old passer has done workouts like that in private in recent days. The Colts, who will re-evaluate Luck midweek, are cautiously optimistic he will be available for Week 1.
  • Another AFC South talent is uncertain for Week 1, but Marqise Lee returned to Jaguars practice this week. This obviously increases the sixth-year wideout’s chances for being available come September. Doug Marrone expressed doubt about this recently, but Lee — sidelined throughout 2018 due to ACL damage — returned to work Saturday.
  • The Colts‘ injury situation at receiver has helped one of their incumbents. Once thought to be a bubble player, Chester Rogers is headed back to Indy’s 53-man roster. The former Ryan Grigson-era draft choice is the Colts’ top return man, Reich said (via the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson, on Twitter). Parris Campbell remains sidelined because of a hamstring injury, Erickson tweets.
  • Indianapolis’ revamped receiving corps will not include Reece Fountain. Reich confirmed the 2018 fifth-rounder underwent ankle surgery Friday and will miss the season (Twitter links via CBS4’s Mike Chappell).
  • The Titans are still deciding on their right guard. While veteran utility man Kevin Pamphile would seemingly have the inside track to start opposite Rodger Saffold next month, the team drafted Nate Davis in Round 3 and has 2017 sixth-rounder Corey Levin. Although Pamphile started opposite Saffold on Saturday, each of these players are in the mix. Former Dolphins draftee Jamil Douglas may be in the running as well. Mike Vrabel does not plan to name a starter until after the Titans’ dress-rehearsal preseason game next weekend, Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com notes. Douglas has not played in a game since 2016; Levin suited up for all 16 Titan games last season. An injury limited Pamphile to three 2018 contests (two starts).

Texans’ Tytus Howard To Open At Guard

The Texans deployed one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines last season and are likely to return multiple starters from the group that yielded 62 an NFL-most sacks. But the team looks to be planning on getting a key addition into the lineup in an unexpected fashion.

Tytus Howard is the frontrunner to open the season as Houston’s starting left guard, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. A first-round tackle out of Alabama State, Howard would replace 2018 starter Senio Kelemete if this plan ends up coming to fruition. Recent signing Matt Kalil is in place as the team’s left tackle, Wilson adds.

Although Howard was viewed as a bit of a reach as a first-rounder, the Texans — despite firing GM Brian Gaine, who oversaw this year’s draft — clearly believe the former high school quarterback has a chance to play immediately. Gaine said after the draft the college tackle could play both guard positions, and Bill O’Brien‘s staff is testing that stance.

Additionally, the Texans are considering second-round guard Max Scharping as a Week 1 starter on the right side. But Wilson adds 2018 starter Zach Fulton is firmly in the mix to keep his job to start this season. Seantrel Henderson, who re-signed after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 1, is expected to start at right tackle.

Deshaun Watson took the most sacks any NFL passer has since Jon Kitna in 2006. The Texans were quiet in free agency on this front, despite entering the marketplace with more than $80MM in cap space. They added the oft-maligned Kalil and used first- and second-round picks on a Division I-FCS tackle (Howard) and mid-major guard (Scharping, out of Northern Illinois). All three additions could be Week 1 starters, doing so after 2018’s batch of newcomers frequently failed to protect Watson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.