Laremy Tunsil is arguably the Texans' most talented player regardless of position.
The Pro Bowl left offensive tackle is also the most highly compensated player on the roster, playing under a three-year, $66 million contract that includes $50 million guaranteed.
Stonewalling pass rushers to protect the quarterback's blind side and opening up holes for running backs are specialized and valuable skills.
And Tunsil was named to the NFL Network's annual top 100 players list for the second consecutive year. After debuting on the list last year at No. 66 overall, Tunsil is ranked 75th overall this year.
“Yeah, he's a freak," Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said, "He's really big. He's really strong. The one thing that kind of comes -- the more we get to work with him, you really see how detailed he is, particularly in his individual technique. So, the way he prepares, how seriously he takes practice, the way he's out there, it's been really good.
"It's been really good for those younger guys to be able to see how a man as talented as he is still comes out and works, and you can see him just drenched at the end of the day because he's taking all those reps and the one-on-one reps. It's really important to him. He's doing a good job paying attention to details. Not just his individual technique, but really the scheme and what we're asking for that group.”
Acquired in a trade from the Miami Dolphins for a pair of first-round draft picks two years ago, the 6-foot-5, 318-pound former first-round draft pick from Mississippi has a lot of power, strength, agility and quickness working in his favor. Tunsil was flagged for just six penalties last season and allowed two sacks for a 75.4 overall Pro Football Focus grade, according to the analytics-based website.
“He’s a very, very gifted player, there’s no question," new Texans offensive line coach James Campen said. "He’s been blessed with some unique skillsets and he can do a lot of different things very well. Just like all of them though, I do believe this, that everyone has different skillsets. We as coaches have to put them in position to exploit those, to make sure that we’re maximizing those things within the structure of an offense. He allows you to do some things like you just mentioned on the back side of the quarterback. He allows you to do some other things to be able to create matchups and those things for other players.”
Tunsil was one of the few bright spots on a 4-12 team and is a key figure in the Texans' rebuild. During each of his first two seasons with the Texans, Tunsil was named to the Pro Bowl. He became the first Texans offensive lineman to be named to the Pro Bowl wo seasons ago since left tackle Duane Brown did so in 2014.
"He’s a great player," Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson said of Tunsil. "He’s still young, too. He’s a young talent. I love watching him play. I like his athleticism.
"Every year, he keeps progressing. In college, he was a highly touted prospect. Now, he’s starting to turn into the player he’s meant to be, and I think he’ll just keep climbing."
Tunsil made major strides in his conditioning, adding lean muscle and upgrading his stamina by lifting heavier weights and performing explosive movements while rehabilitating a torn labrum in his shoulder last year while training with former Texans and Denver Broncos strength coach and physical therapy specialist Billy Voltaire of Volt Performance.
The improvement and increased comfort level in Tunsil was obvious last season.
“Laremy’s a freak,” Kelly said last year. “He’s playing at an incredibly high level in both the pass game and the run game. He’s doing a great job executing the assignments that we’re giving him. He’s been a great pro."
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years and has written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.