The message from Texans offensive line coach James Campen about a shorthanded position group was succinct and to the point.
With starting left tackle Tytus Howard, center Justin Britt, left guard Lane Taylor and right guard Justin McCray sidelined on the reserve-COVID-19 list, the Texans' offensiv eline is in flux.
"Coach Campen right before practice was like, ‘Hey, look around. This is the eight guys we’ve got and this is the eight guys we’re going into the game with," rookie center Jimmy Morrissey said. "So, we’re preparing to play on Sunday and just hoping that we get there and are able to compete.”
Morrissey is slated to make his fourth NFL start. The "probable" expected offensive line configuration for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers is left tackle Geron Christian Sr., left guard Cole Toner, Morrissey, right guard Max Scharping and right tackle Charlie Heck, coach David Culley affirmedFriday morning.
A Las Vegas Raiders seventh-round draft pick from Pitt who won the Burlsworth Trophy, Morrissey is leaning on his previous experience and advice from older teammates like Britt as he prepares tostart Sunday.
“Lot of things are more technical that I’ve learned," Morrissey said. "I got comfortable once the third game came around with the playbook, really. I have been with the team for longer than a couple weeks now. I feel confident out there and my relationship with all the guys on the offense has been great so far. Really, the key takeaways from those games were little techniques, things that I need to tweak a little bit that got me beat a couple times when I was playing.”
“Justin has been great. We have a really good relationship. He’s one of my closest friends on the team, probably. He’s an awesome veteran to learn from, really experienced player. Even while we’re watching Zoom and coach (Tim) Kelly and coach Campen are going through the film, he’s sending me chats on the side like, ‘Hey, do this, or on this screen, look out for that.’ Just helping me along the way, and Justin’s been the veteran teammate that you play behind. He’s like the perfect example of who you hope he is. He’s been great. Coach Campen, too, has been awesome, former center in the NFL. They’ve both been really valuable resources in helping me get ready to play.”
The Texans' offense, like the defense and the special teams, has been hit hard by the COVID situation with the highly contagious Omicron variant afflicting the entire league. The Texans have 23 players currently on the COVID-19 reserve list, including top wide receiver Brandin Cooks and kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn.
“It’s tricky, probably tricker than it has been here the last couple of months that we have been dealing with COVID," said Kelly, the Texans' offensive coordinator. "First and foremost want to make sure that we are keeping everybody safe, keeping everyone’s family safe, obviously that’s paramount. As far as football, being able to go and this is why we teach the offense as opposed to coming in and being able to memorize plays. In a situation like this where Sunday we may be down a few people, I’m not quite sure yet.
Guys are able to step in and able to go and function at a high level. Our guys and our coaching staff have done a great job preparing everyone on the roster for whatever their role may be and right now we are trying to figure out who we are going to have available and what spots we are going to be able to put them in to put us in the best spot to win a football game.”