Texans' Laremy Tunsil named to Pro Bowl for third time

Stonewalling pass rushers all season, Texans left offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil is one of the most athletic and polished blockers in the game.

And Tunsil has been recognized by players, coaches and fans, earning a Pro Bowl selection for the third-time in his NFL career, according to NFL sources.

The NFL later made it official, announcing Tunsil as a starter in the Pro Bowl. Four players were named alternates for the Pro Bowl: defensive end Jerry Hughes, running back Dameon Pierce, kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn and punter Cameron Johnston.

Tunsil has allowed just one sack this season, and leads the NFL with a 91.3 pass blocking grade and has an 80.5 overall grade. He has yielded just two quarterback hits and 11 pressures, proving again that the former Miami Dolphins first-round draft pick is one of the most talented linemen in the NFL.Tunsil shut out some of the top pass rushers in the league, including Dallas Cowboys star Micah Parsons.

The Pro Bowl squads are being officially announced Wednesday night. The leader in the fan balloting in the AFC is Miami Dolphins left tackle Terron Armstead with 122,914 votes. Fan balloting counts for a third of the voting with the other 2/3 comprised of players and coach votes. NFL players and coaches can’t vote for players on their own team.

Texans coach Lovie Smith said he believed that Tunsil should named to the Pro Bowl again.

“One of the best offensive linemen in football,” Smith said. We talk about our guys, we don’t get a chance to vote for any of our guys. If I was on an opposing team, I would definitely vote him in. He’s that good.”

Tunsil pitched another shutout, holding Parsons, one of the most dynamic defensive players in the game, to no sacks, pressures or hurries. Parsons never hit the quarterback, and that’s been a recurring experience for some of the NFL’s best defenders when matched up against Tunsil.

Frustrated by losing nearly every week on a 1-12-1 squad, Tunsil has set his ambitions on maintaining an exceptionally high blocking standard and building for the future.

And Tunsil has set his ambitions on earning an elusive piece of recognition.

“I want that first-team All-Pro,” Tunsil said. “That would mean a lot to me. Hopefully, I get it.”

Tunsil hasn’t allowed a sack since the first game of the season against the Indianapolis Colts.

“Watch the tape, man,” Tunsil said. “The eye in the sky don’t lie. I feel like I’ve done some good things.”

Acquired in a blockbuster trade by former Texans coach and general manager Bill O’Brien, Tunsil has earned his highest career pass blocking grade.

He has allowed the one sack, two quarterback hits and seven hurries for 10 total pressures.

Parsons had five tackles, but didn’t pressure the quarterback against the Texans.

“He didn’t,” Tunsil said.

Tunsil has drawn praise from analysts, including retired NFL offensive lineman Brian Baldinger. He called Tunsil the best offensive lineman in the league.

Heading into Saturday’s road game against the Tennessee Titans, Tunsil is one of the few bright spots through his play and his attitude. That’s one reason why Tunsil was named a permanent offensive team captain and has the C captain’s badge now stenciled into his No. 78 jersey.

“We didn’t expect anything less from Laremy,” Texans offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s smart. He’s tough, and he is, I would say, the leader of our football team.”

Tunsil hasn’t missed a game after undergoing thumb surgery last season and being placed on injured reserve. He missed one practice this week with an illness, but has been back the past two days and is set to play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I’ve been very consistent,” Tunsil said. “That’s one of the things I was trying to hone in on at the beginning of the season.”

That’s how valuable Tunsil is as one of the top blockers in the NFL. The Texans restructured Tunsil’s contract this offseason, moving forward with him as their top offensive lineman, converting his $17.85 million salary into a $16.815 million bonus with $1.035 million as his new salary. His 2023 salary of $18.5 million is unchanged after previously signing a three-year, $66 million contract after joining the Texans, a blockbuster deal he helped negotiate along with his advisors.

Tunsil is regarded as a bargain considering the quality of his play and compensation structure. He has a 1.01 cash to cap ratio has a $17.707 million salary cap charge for 8.27 percent of the Texans’ salary cap, a cash payout that represents 9.66 percent of the team’s spending and a contract ranking of third among left tackles, according to Over The Cap metrics.

This year, Tunsil hasn’t missed a snap and has emerged as a team leader who loves playing for a team that needs more contributors like him.

Tunsil has proven to the organization that he’s all-in. He made it a point before the trade deadline to communicate to friends and other key people that he had no desire to be traded. He wants to be in Houston on a long-term basis and hopes to negotiate with the Texans this offseason to add more years to his current deal, which carries a $35.21 million salary cap figure in 2023.

In 2019, the Dolphins traded Tunsil, wide receiver Kenny Stills, a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2021 sixth-round pick to the Texans in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick, 2021 first-round pick, 2021 second-round pick, cornerback Johnson Bademosi and offensive lineman Julién Davenport.

Although it was a hefty price to pay in terms of giving up valuable draft capital, Tunsil has performed at a high level and stabilized a critical position that had lacked an established presence since trading former Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown to the Seattle Seahawks.

“Hopefully, we talk about that this offseason and they extend me a couple more years here,” Tunsil said. “I love Houston.”

New Auburn coach Hugh Freeze, Tunsil’s college head coach, hired Liberty strength and conditioning coach Dominic Studzinski for the same position at his new school. Tunsil trains with Studzinski every offseason and credited him for helping him improve along with private offensive line coach Mike Wahle, a former NFL offensive lineman.

“Those guys have helped me out a lot,” Tunsil said. “Dominic is one of my closest friends. Mike was a big part of me improving my technique and getting my footwork down.”

As positive as Tunsil has remained despite the Texans’ inability to finish close games, losing takes a toll on everyone as competitive professional athletes. Tunsil’s plan: stay the course, make the best out of each situation and, hopefully, win games and earn the elusive All-Pro recognition he wants.

“The situation we’re in is not ideal,” Tunsil said. “It hurts, man. No one wants to lose or be on a team that isn’t winning games. It’s tough.”

Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans

Photo: Getty Images

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