Call me paranoid. Say I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill.
Hell, lambast me as a hater.
But I’m terrified of the murky waters that the Texans and the right side of their offensive line are wading into.
You should be too. After all, they’re only replacing 40 percent of a unit that paved holes for the NFL’s second ranked rushing attack. Oh yeah, AND protected Matt Schaub.
Going into training camp, it was widely assumed that Antoine Caldwell would take over for Mike Brisiel at right guard, while Rashad Butler would resume Eric Winston’s duties at right tackle. A couple of practices later, things aren’t looking so clear.
“I think they’re being pushed really, really hard,” said head coach Gary Kubiak. “[Brandon] Brooks and Shelley Smith are pushing Caldwell, in my opinion, and [Derek] Newton’s pushing the heck out of Butler. It’s going to be a tough call.”
And he thinks that competition in preseason games will make the line better heading into the real thing.
“We’ll see how they handle the bright lights when we start playing and how we do.” continued Kubiak. “It’s a very, very tough decision, and it’s good for our team.”
That may be true. But if you’re the Texans, don’t you want a better idea of what your O-Line could look like against Miami week one?
With Butler and Caldwell entering into contract years, plus a wealth of experience playing in Kubiak’s zone-blocking system, you’d hope that those two could easily shrug off any competition. But from all that we’ve seen and heard during training camp, that isn’t the case.
Here’s the problem. If you want this offensive line rolling on all cylinders into the season, you need them to develop chemistry and a rapport like we saw last season. You want your clear cut starters to get as many reps as possible, and most importantly together.
But if this competition is as close as Kubiak says, don’t expect that to happen. What you can anticipate is that Butler, Brooks, Caldwell, and Newton will all see their fair share of duty with the first team offense. As a result, when the regular season kicks off, the O-Line likely won’t look very crisp.
I’m not saying they have no chance at duplicating last season. But it takes time for a unit to gel. Just ask the Texans defense. And in a zone blocking scheme like Kubiak employs, there’s nothing more important than chemistry for offensive linemen.
So on Saturday, keep an eye on the right side of the line. The successes and failures of the O-Line during the preseason will very likely decide who’ll start for the Texans in 2012.