Texans right offensive guard Max Scharping lined up next to Charlie Heck for the past month, building invaluable timing and knowledge of their habits and skills.
Now that Heck is out after testing positive for COVID-19, Scharping is adapting to playing next to a new starting right tackle in veteran former New England Patriots starter Marcus Cannon.
Cannon is preparing tostart Sundayagainst the Jacksonville Jaguars after being activated a week ago from the physically unable to perform list following offseason arthroscopic knee surgery and a strained calf.
Cannon is a quick study, and the owner of three Super Bowl rings.
“I think you just notice immediately how intelligent he is,” Scharping said. “He’s been in the league a really long time and it shows. He picks up on a lot of stuff. That helps when you are playing next to someone who has been there and seen it all. He has experience in the highest level and the highest games.
“When you are playing alongside someone who has been there it really helps to focus you on maybe what you should be focusing on. Things you can tell about a defense or what he is thinking on a certain block, a double team, all that stuff.”
The Texans also get Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil back in the lineup this week. Tunsil missed time during the preseason after testing positive for COVID. He got activated last week and is ready to go.
“LT is LT, he is always going to be smooth,” Scharping said. “He’s doing very well. I think his son is in town, so I think he is getting some family time.”
Scharping regressed last season after an encouraging rookie year. He’s made steady improvements throughout the offseason and training camp.
“I think everyone of us tries to get better every single day we are out there,” Scharping said. “So, if other people see that then I guess I am accomplishing something of what I am trying to do. As an offensive lineman, it’s about working with the other four guys that are playing alongside with me.
“Just trying to get, especially with all the new guys coming in on the whole team and on the offense and offensive line, just getting used to working with those new guys. Building a relationship with them, how they communicate. And just moving forward.”
For Scharping, it’s all about focusing on the game without being consumed by its complicated nature.
A top student at Northern Illinois, Scharping has to simply be in the moment and do his job.
“Of course, I am still working through that,” Scharping said. “That’s a constant battle. Trying not to outdo myself and over think something where sometimes football is a simple game. You got to block the guy in front of you sometimes, that’s all you need to think about. I definitely think that happens every once and a while and just get out of my own head sometimes.
“I think that just sometimes randomly throughout the game you will be thinking about something that happened previously. Or maybe they are going to do this when you are not focusing on what is right in front of you, what the defense is telling you. Sometimes you just got an over active mind going.”
Having a veteran, accomplished center like Justin Britt playing next to him has eased Scharping’s preparations for his third NFL season.
“JB’s awesome,” Scharping said. “His rookie year he played right tackle in the Super bowl, and then he moved into center. So he’s played almost every position on the line, so he gets every single position, what their job is, how hard their job is, what’s different from his. So, his communication and his leadership in the room has been fantastic.”
Does it make a big difference for Scharping moving to the right side from the left side? Not really.
“Nah, I mean, it’s really just you’re in a different stance, so your feet are a little bit different, so you’ve got to flip the plays in your head,” he said. “Other than that, it’s pretty much the same offense. We run every play both ways, that’s pretty much the way it is. You’re going to know the plays both sides. It’s just flipping your feet and making sure mentally you’re on the correct side of the ball sometimes.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years and has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128