ARLINGTON -- Running behind Tytus Howard brings a smile to Texans veteran running back Mark Ingram's face.
Now that the converted right tackle continues to gain a comfort level as the Texans' starting left guard, Howard could have found a new home at a different position.
The former first-round draft pick from Alabama State is currently slated to line up next to Pro Bowl offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil on the left side. Barring the Texans inserting an injured Lane Taylor at right guard and having Max Scharping move over from right guard to left guard, the Texans could head into the season with Howard as the left guard.
“Tytus is a beast," Ingram said. "He’s a big man. He’s super athletic. He can run well. He’s physical. He’s only going to get better. I’m happy he’s my left guard.”
Activated from the reserve-COVID-19 list last week after missing the Green Bay Packers game as a close contact of Tunsil, who tested positive, Howard played 19 snaps against the Dallas Cowboys during a 20-14 victory at AT&T Stadium.
“Individually, I’m not really sure," Texans coach David Culley said. "I haven’t watched the video, but it was good to have him out there. He had a good week of practice when he came back off the Covid protocol that he was on, and then we’ll just see when we watch the video.”
Signed to a four-year, $12.225 million contract that includes a club fifth-year option, Howard is much healthier this season. A year ago, he endured a rough offseason that included recovering from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, a procedure to repair a broken finger, and dealing with no offseason practices due to the coronavirus pandemic. He wound up getting off to a slow start.
Now the Texans are seeing Howard regain the form that made him an all-rookie selection.
“He's all over the place,” Tunsil said earlier in training camp. “He's doing a great job. Everybody knows how Tytus Howard is doing. He's a great guy, he’s a great player, just getting better every day.”
Howard allowed just two sacks last season, but was penalized 11 times. A lot of times, Howard had to overcompensate to bail out right guard Zach Fulton, who recently retired from the New York Giants. It created a difficult situation on the right side as Fulton regularly allowed a lot of pressure, including 11 sacks.
A former quarterback who has gained 100 pounds since high school, Howard remains a work in progress.
Howard has only played left guard in a regular-season game once, playing 64 snaps in 2019 in a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I'm a lot more comfortable now than when I was a rookie because when I was a rookie it was all new to me, so I was just put inside and I never played inside before, versus now I've played guard before,” Howard said. “I got a lot of reps on the left side, so I'm very comfortable being on both sides.”
Right tackle, though, is Howard’s natural position. It’s where he feels most at home.
“I'm very comfortable playing right tackle,” Howard said. “My goal is to go in, do my best job at right tackle and do my best job at left guard, left tackle. So any position they put me in, that's my goal is to give my all at every position because I like to play, so me being on the field, it makes me happy, makes my team happy, so that's what I want to do.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.