Shaking up the offensive line, the Texans started former first-round draft pick Tytus Howard at left tackle and veteran Lane Taylor at left guard.
The changes didn't trigger the desired results, though, as quarterback Tyrod Taylor was sacked five times and hit seven times overall during a 21-14 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday at NRG Stadium, one week after not being sacked and hit just once during a road victory over the Tennessee Titans.
An athletic 6-foot-5, 322-pound former first-round draft pick from Alabama State, Howard has experience at left tackle from lining up there during training camp as a rookie and playing the position in college.
Shifted from right tackle to left guard for the first 10 games of the season for the 2-9 Texans, Howard replaces Geron Christian Sr. at left tackle. Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil remains on injured reserve after undergoing thumb surgery to repair a torn ligament.
Why make the change now with Howard?
"We just felt that was the best matchup for this week with who they were playing at the end," Texans coach David Culley said. "We felt like Tytus would be better outside than inside."
Before the Titans game, offensive coordinator Tim Kelly emphasized that Howard has the versatility to line up at tackle or guard. Howard looked like a more natural fit at right tackle last season, but the Texans wanted to get Marcus Cannon on the field at right tackle. Cannon is on injured reserve after undergoing back surgery.
"It depends on the matchups we've got, and, once we get some of our guys back again, we'll be able to keep him inside," Culley said. "Right now, we felt like he gave us the best matchup outside to play tackle.
"Tytus is a very, very intelligent football player. He can play multiple positions He's got very good football instincts. He's shown that he can go inside and outside and go left and go right. Obviously, he's a pretty good player."
The Texans struggled in pass protection, and not strictly because of Howard. Defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers had two sacks and intercepted Taylor on a screen pass. Quinnen Williams and Quincy Williams and Ronald Blair each had sacks.
“We knew going into this game their guys up front did a great job of rushing the passer and being stout against the run, and they did it," Taylor said. "Hats off to those guys; they competed well. Obviously, they came away with the win. Just something that we have to go back, clean up where we could have been better and keep moving forward.”
Taylor stepped into the starting lineup at left guard after being signed to the active roster from the practice squad.
A former Green Bay Packers starter, Taylor has played in three games this season since being activated from the physically unable to perform list.\
Taylor signed a one-year contract with the Texans during the offseason after visiting the San Francisco 49ers.
Taylor, 32, played for Texans offensive line coach James Campen in Green Bay after going undrafted out of Oklahoma State and earned the starting right guard position.
Taylor has played in 81 career games with 51 career starts, after Sunday's game against the New York Jets.
In 2017, the former All-Big 12 selection signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract extension with the Packers after starting every game for the first time in his career.
Taylor appeared to hold up solidly. Overall, though, it was a rough game for the offensive line. The Texans may get veteran center Justin Britt back from a knee injury next week after he was designated for return from injured reserve and returned to practice last Friday.
The Jets' aggressive front seven made things difficult for Taylor, who was under heavy duress.
"They were flying around, they were everywhere playing very physical," running back Rex Burkhead said. "We've got to execute. If we don't do that, if we're not good on the little details, you know, it's going to feel like that. It's going to feel like they're flying around, they're in your face every single time. And so really just comes down to execution.
“They're a physical front. They move guys around, give you different looks. And we knew going in that something that they do. You try to stop them from getting going. At times, we didn't do that. We didn't give Tyrod enough time because when we do our offense really gets clicking and gets moving. So, hopefully, we can look at that and make some changes.”