Tytus Howard tackles left guard spot, weighs in on vaccination

Tytus Howard traveled a relatively short amount of real estate, relocating from his natural right tackle position to become the Texans’ starting left guard.

The shift becomes official Sunday in the regular season-opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium.

At 6-foot-5, 322 pounds, the former first-round draft pick from Alabama State has the requisite size, power and nasty streak to succeed as an interior blocker muscling hefty defensive tackles.

“I feel very comfortable,” Howard said. “I feel that I can do pretty good. I feel like the team wouldn’t put me at a position if they didn’t think that. So I feel comfortable going into the first game.

“You get a chance to be a lot more physical. You get a chance to not block anybody. The tackle has a blocker. With the defensive end on him, I can go chip him and stuff like that. It’s a lot of fun playing inside, I really like it.”

Howard plays the game with an aggressive personality and delivers punishing blocks. The in-fighting at the line of scrimmage, protecting his territory, is right up his alley.

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 as he’s being coached by former NFL offensive lineman James Campen.

A lot of Howard’s physical and mental qualities make him well-suited to play guard, which he hasn’t played since he was a rookie in his first NFL game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“When I was first drafted, I played inside my first game against the Jags, I went through that whole training camp at left guard,” Howard said. “I think that by me doing that, it helped me for this time for when I moved back inside, I was just remembering the stuff that I went through and what I did to get better every day and I just attacked that.

“My coach, he played guard, he helped me out and I got other guys who switch positions and talk to me about what I can do to adjust to the change. I just took all that home and I am liking it.”

Howard is under contract for the next two seasons and is due base salaries of $1.606 million and $2.162 million. His financial future could be impacted a bit by playing guard since tackles traditionally are paid more, but Howard isn’t concerned with that potential scenario. He feels like the money is going to be there if he performs to an optimal level.

“No, that has not occurred to me,” Howard said. “I think you can make a lot of money in this league at any position, so the opportunity to go inside and actually be good at it, I’m up for the challenge. I think I can do that and I think no matter what happens and if you do what you are supposed to do, you can get money any way it goes.”

Howard didn’t grow up watching offensive guards, but does like watching Quenton Nelson and Brandon Scherff.

“To be honest, I haven’t really watched too many guards because I don’t like to watch too many different players,” Howard said. I will watch some guys just to see how they do things, but I really like to learn and do stuff my own way because I think every player is different, everybody moves different, they see things different.”

Howard should benefit from the presence of Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. With Tunsil back from a bout with COVID-19 and activated last week after testing positive prior to a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, Howard and Tunsil could be a formidable tandem on the left side.

“It feels good,” Howard said. “I mean everybody knows what type of player Laremy is. We don’t have to talk about it, it just feels good to have the whole group in that are going to play majority of the snaps together. So, to get that camaraderie together, being at practice with him every day because I know he was out with COVID, I just feel good and I know we got something special cooking for this season.”

The Texans are preparing Marcus Cannon to start at right tackle with Charlie Heck out after testing positive for COVID. Cannon was activated from the physically unable to perform list last week and has made significant progress since undergoing offseason arthroscopic knee surgery and straining a calf muscle.

“I feel very comfortable with Marcus coming in and playing right tackle, he has played a lot of football in this league,” Howard said. “He is an older vet and we can all learn from him. I feel very comfortable playing left guard.

“You get a chance to be a lot more physical. You get a chance to not block anybody. The tackle has a blocker. With the defensive end on him, I can go chip him and stuff like that. It’s a lot of fun playing inside, I really like it.”

And Howard has taken steps to ensure he can stay on the field, including the choice of getting vaccinated.

“I’m vaccinated, I am fully vaccinated,” Howard said. “ But I think when it comes to getting vaccinated it’s a personal choice, so whatever guys decide to get vaccinated or not, it’s their own choice. I just personally decided to get it myself, but I don’t look at it no type of way.

“Just doing what I thought was best for me and my family. No particular reason, just that simple. Me being there to my family in the best position to stay safe, that’s it.”

 A former quarterback who has gained 100 pounds since high school, Howard remains a work in progress.

Howard played 64 snaps at left guard in 2019 in a win over the Jaguars.

The Texans hope that having Howard line up there allows them to have their most talented five blockers.

“We want to put the best five on the field and I can play tackle and guard,” Howard said. “So, I felt like that by me moving inside it gave us the best opportunity to put the best five on the field and give the team the best chance to win.”

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.

Detroit Lions v Houston Texans

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