Reporting Mike Meltser
HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – For the first time all season, the Texans’ starting tackles on Sunday may not be Duane Brown and Derek Newton. With Newton rehabbing an injured knee, veteran Ryan Harris is likely to start his first game of the year.
We’ll see how Harris is able to hold up for a whole game, but his start should allow us to examine how quietly his signing has fortified the offensive line. It seems like Rashad Butler’s season-ending triceps injury happened a few thousand years ago, but it created a pretty big gaping hole for the team. Butler began training camp as the starter at RT, and was expected to be the backup swing tackle for the entire season.
Luckily, the Broncos released Harris on August 31st, and Houston scooped him up a day later. I was a big fan of the signing, because he is the rare veteran that has some upside. Harris was actually at one point considered a possible building block in Denver, playing opposite of franchise LT Ryan Clady. In 2008, Harris allowed only 1.5 sacks the entire season. Unfortunately, he dealt with a series of injuries that led to his initial departure from the Broncos, after the 2010 season.
This year, Harris has rotated in quite a bit for Newton, providing a reliable reinforcement when the 2nd-year player struggles. Some advanced stats show the kind of value Harris has given the Texans; when he’s in the game, they run the ball for 4.96 yards, versus 4.17 with him on the bench. Despite public perception, the Texans are actually the 4th best team in the NFL at running off right-tackle (a credit to both Harris and Newton).
Sunday would mark Harris’s first start since Week 17 of the 2010 season. “Having started in the NFL definitely helps me out, it gives me a better knowledge of how things go and the ebb and flow of the game and how to prepare,” Harris said.
It’s a much easier feeling when you fill a void with a veteran than an untested player like Andrew Gardner. “Ryan has played a lot of football, he’s played in a lot of big games in Denver. He’s no stranger to being put in the spot, so to speak, so we’re glad we’ve got him, I know that,” Gary Kubiak said.
The next 4-5 weeks will be a battle for the Texans to maintain and retain most of their health. Derek Newton is a player they would like to be at full strength very soon, but it’s good to have Ryan Harris as the stopgap.