Tytus Howard is starting to feel much more at home in his new real estate as the Texans’ starting left offensive tackle.
As his comfort level increases, the former first-round draft pick from Alabama State has turned in two confidence-building starts while Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil remains on injured reserve, perhaps for the entire season, after undergoing thumb surgery.
Howard’s pass-blocking grades against the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts in his two starts and 110 snaps at left tackle: 86.4 and 83.8, according to Pro Football Focus analytics.
“I’m feeling more comfortable by the week,” Howard said. “By the day, actually. For me, it’s all about repetition. So as long as I continue to get all these reps, I’m only going to get better. I’m happy with how I’ve been doing so far, I think the team is.
“But my goal is to become a better player than I was the week before. As long as I’m getting better each and every week, that’s my goal. That’s the thing I continue to take pride in, just being better than I was before. If I continue to put the work in, everything else will settle itself.”
Howard didn’t draw strong reviews at left guard. He never looked really in sync or comfortable at the position and struggled to budge defensive lineman.
It's a different story at his new position.
At 6-foot-5, 322 pounds, Howard has the requisite size, athleticism, arm length and footwork to be an effective tackle.
“Definitely, I probably feel more comfortable at left tackle because ’ve been playing tackle my whole career,” Howard said. “So, it’s easy for me to accommodate myself back to playing tackle versus starting to play guard. I would say the tackle.”
Howard was the highest graded Texans player with an overall 79.4 Pro Football Focus grade against the Jets.
Although Howard was one of the lowest-rated guards in the NFL this season with a 43.7 overall grade, including a 41.5 run blocking mark and 57.3 pass blocking grade, he graded out much higher at left tackle, a position he played as a rookie in a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers as he struggled to match the speed of Rashan Gary and in college. Howard has come a long way since his rookie season.
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.
Because it’s unclear if Tunsil will return this season and Geron Christian Sr. hadn’t excelled as his replacement, having Howard play left tackle is a new wrinkle for the NFL’s lowest-scoring and last-ranked total offense. Should Howard emerge as a viable left tackle, it creates flexibility for the Texans since he can always play guard or right tackle again and gives the rebuilding AFC South franchise some options going forward depending on if they ever entertained a trade of Tunsil should another team offer something attractive.
At 2-10 overall, the Texans are searching for answers at several positions. Finding out where Howard fits best is an important situation that bears watching.
“Tytus has done a good job with everything we’ve asked him to do,” Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said. “He’s bumped around, he’s played different spots, he’s played next to different people, which is always a challenge at that position because they all work together. Tytus has done a good job going out there at left tackle and he’s performed well, and we’re looking for him to have another good game here on Sunday.”