The Texans defensive line has gone through a significant transformation the past two years and that won't change in 2023. Through the first two weeks of the new league year, the Texans have added three free agents to the mix and will more than likely add through the draft to that group as well. Here's how the DL stacks up as we head into the conditioning in the next few weeks.
Returning players currently under contract
Jerry Hughes - signed as a FA in 2022 - Just after last year's draft, Hughes was added to the roster and his addition was perhaps the best Texans FA addition in a decade. He was a bright light off the edge and when he went HAM on the Eagles on Thursday night, it caught a lot of people's attention. Now, he's no spring chicken, but if the Texans get more bodies into the rotation to keep him fresh, I think he can have a similar impact in 2023.
2022 stats - 17 games, 9.0 sacks, 35 tackles, 10.0 TFLs, 10 QB hits, one INT, two forced fumbles
Maliek Collins - signed as a FA in 2021, re-signed in 2022 - It was clear when Collins was injured and out of the lineup last year and when he was back in the middle of the defense. He was injured in the Raiders game and when he missed next week against Tennessee, the struggles were way too real. Ugh. But, Collins finished the season as the disruptive defender the Texans yearned for when they re-signed him back in the 2022 offseason. Even with the additions on defense, Collins should continue to make an impact. However, there's a rotation of experienced dudes now to make sure he's fresh and disruptive at all times.
2022 stats - 15 games, 3.5 sacks, 37 tackles, 9.0 TFLs, 10 QB hits
Roy Lopez Jr. - 2021 sixth round - I thought that Roy's last five or six games were some of his best football in his Texans career. The first eight to ten games weren't his best, but he finished the season making a real impact on the defense. The additions to the interior will push big Roy to take his game to another level in 2023.
2022 stats - 17 games, 1.0 sack, 36 tackles, 6.0 TFL, three QB hits
Jon Greenard - 2020 third round - As I mentioned for Collins above, it was clear when Greenard was on the field, setting the edge in the run game and when he wasn't. Unfortunately, unlike Collins, Greenard missed over half the season. That's been the story for Jon - missed games. He's played 33 games in three years, just 20 in the past two seasons. So, get, and stay, healthy and then it's time to disrupt enough to get ALL the attention, as he should, from OTs, RBs and TEs.
2022 stats - eight games, 1.5 sacks, 16 tackles, 6.0 TFLs, four QB hits, one INT (pick six), one fumble recovery
Thomas Booker - 2022 fifth round - Booker's rookie year had a couple of high moments and bursts of light, but I'm more excited about his second year and the progress he can make. I don't think I've gone one day without seeing him in the building for workouts and everything, so he's putting in the work. Now, it's time to see that work come to fruition.
2022 stats - ten games, 0.5 sacks, 15 tackles, 1.0 TFL and one QB hit
Kurt Hinish - undrafted rookie in 2022 - It was a shock to me that Hinish went undrafted and he made the most of his playing time as a rookie. There's going to be a ton of competition, but Hinish can still find his role on this defense in due time. He only missed two games as a rookie and tied for sixth on the team with six TFLs, although he only started three games.
2022 stats - 15 games, 1.0 sack, 23 tackles, 6.0 TFLs and two QB hits
Taylor Stallworth - signed as a FA in 2022, re-signed for 2023 - Stallworth was added to the roster late in the 2022 season. He then was active against Dallas and was arguably one of the top five impact defenders in that game. But, he got hurt in that game as well and missed the rest of the season. Fortunately, he re-signed with the Texans and that could be a completely underrated GREAT signing, in conjunction with the other interior additions that were made as well. He's built like a brickhouse and I'm glad that he's finally in Houston. I loved him from afar for a long, LONG time.
2022 stats - one game - four tackles, 1.0 TFL against Dallas
Demone Harris - reserve/future signing in January 2023 - When Harris gets on the field, he's been productive. Unfortunately, he's been on the active/inactive/practice squad roller coaster for much of his Texans career. He can absolutely rush the QB, so he'll be another candidate for an outside rush end spot in this defense in 2023.
2022 stats - three games - four tackles, one pass defensed and one QB hit
Derek Rivers - re-signed in 2023 - After a TREMENDOUS training camp, Rivers was hurt in the last preseason game against the 49ers. As a result, he missed the entire 2022 season. If he could just stay healthy, there's some DEFINITE pass rush game in his repertoire.
Adedayo Odeleye - reserve/future signing in January 2023 - Odeleye was the team's international pathway player in 2022 and signed a reserve/future contract to return in 2023. In training camp, it was impressive to see the growth in Odeleye's game so I'm excited to see how much progress he's made during this offseason and 2023 training camp.
Recently signed to a contract for 2023
Hassan Ridgeway - formerly of the 49ers - FA signing - Ridgeway, the former Texas Longhorn, is thick, quick and stout. Those attributes should truly help this run defense in a big way. After years of seeing opponents not move an inch against this Texans front, it was galling to see this run defense get torn to shreds for the past three seasons, in particular. Ridgeway was brought to Houston to stop that bleeding.
2022 stats - 12 games, 1.0 sack, 28 tackles, 3.0 TFLs and four QB hits (went on IR on 12/15/2022)
Sheldon Rankins - formerly of the Jets - FA signing - Rankins, the 12th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, is thick, quick and stout. Those attributes should truly help this run defense in a big way. After years of seeing opponents not move an inch against this Texans front, it was galling to see this run defense get torn to shreds for the past three seasons, in particular. Rankins was brought to Houston to stop that bleeding.
*Yes, I know what I did there.
2022 stats - 15 games, 3.0 sacks, 43 tackles, 4.0 TFL, seven QB hits, one forced fumble
Chase Winovich - formerly of the Browns - FA signing - Winovich racked up 11 sacks in his first two seasons, having only started nine games in those two years. He tacked on 10.0 TFLs and 22 QB hits in the process. But, he was traded to Cleveland in 2022 and his production took a significant dip. GM Nick Caserio knows him well from his days in New England, in fact, after Caserio left for Houston in 2021, Winovich's production dropped off. Now that they're back together, who knows, right??
2022 stats - eight games, 1.0 sack, 20 tackles, 1.0 TFL, three QB hits
Key contributors in 2022, released or not on roster (as of 3/27)
Mario Addison - 2022 stats - 12 games - 1.0 sack, 15 tackles, 1.0 TFL, two QB hits.
Rasheem Green - 2022 stats - 16 games - 3.5 sacks, 42 tackles, 5.0 TFL and eight QB hits
Ogbo Okoronkwo - 2022 stats - 17 games - 5.0 sacks, 44 tackles, 9.0 TFL, one FF and 11 QB hits
JH Crush List - Rookies by Texans draft selection THAT MAKE SENSE
Even though the Texans added three key pieces to the defensive line for 2023 (four, if you count Stallworth), I still expect them to add to the list, especially on the outside. That addition could come as early as pick No. 12 but, in my humble opinion, that won't be the only addition made through the draft.
1st round - 2nd overall
1st round - 12th overall
DE/Sub interior rusher Myles Murphy, Clemson (6-5, 268)
DE/Sub interior rusher Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech (6-6, 271) - probably would have to trade up to snatch him in top eight to nine
DE/Sub interior rusher Lukas Van Ness, Iowa (6-5, 272)
DT Calijah Kancey, Pitt (6-1, 280)
DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson (6-5 ½, 298)
Edge Nolan Smith, Georgia (6-3, 238)
DE/DT Keion White, Georgia Tech (6-5, 285)
2nd round - 33rd overall
DE/OLB Will McDonald, Iowa State (6-3 ⅝, 239)
DT Mazi Smith, Michigan (6-3 ⅛, 319)
3rd round - 65th overall
DE Tuli Tuipolotu, USC (6-3, 266)
DE/OLB Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame (6-5, 264)
DE/DT Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern (6-2, 282)
DE/OLB Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State (6-3 ⅛, 255)
3rd round - 73rd overall
DE/OLB Derick Hall, Auburn (6-3, 254)
DT Zacch Pickens, South Carolina (6-4, 291)
DE/OLB Byron Young, Tennessee (6-2, 250)
4th round - 104th overall
DT Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin (6-4, 309)
DE/OLB Robert Beal Jr, Georgia (6-4, 247)
DE Zach Harrison, Ohio State (6-5 ½, 274)
5th round - 161st overall
DT Cameron Young, Mississippi State (6-3, 304)
DE/DT Yaya Diaby, Louisville (6-3, 263)
6th round - 188th, 201st and 203rd overall
DT Nesta Jade Silvera, Arizona State (6-2, 304)
DE/DT Kobie Turner, Wake Forest (6-2 ¼, 288)
7th round - 230th and 259th overall
Edge B.J. Thompson, SFA (6-6, 238)
DE M.J. Anderson, Iowa State (6-2 ½, 269)
DT Devonnsha Maxwell, Chattanooga (6-3, 296)
DE Thomas Incoom, Central Michigan (6-2, 262)