Sarah Barshop, ESPN Staff Writer 36d

New Texans offensive linemen excited to block for 'star' QB Deshaun Watson

HOUSTON -- While the chance to start was appealing to the three offensive linemen who signed with the Houston Texans early in free agency, the group also knew there would be something special about joining the Texans: quarterback Deshaun Watson.

"[Watson] can make O-linemen look good by just making our guys -- if we miss a block, he can just roll out and probably gain 20, 30 yards and make that look easy," said Senio Kelemete, who started at both guard spots and center last season for the New Orleans Saints. "I'm happy to be here.

"It's a lot different coming from New Orleans, from a future Hall of Famer, Drew Brees, standing back there. He's a pocket passer. And then coming here and knowing that you have a young quarterback that's up and coming and he's going to be a star himself."

The Texans are coming off a 4-12 season, but the three offensive linemen, all of whom played in the playoffs last season, say they believe Watson is good enough to turn it around.

"Last year was really kind of just an off year, like nobody ever saw that coming, but things happen," former Buffalo Bills tackle Seantrel Henderson said. "That's how the game goes. ... [Watson is] a prolific quarterback already. I know he's going to come back, he's going to bounce back and it's going to make my job easier and I think everybody else on the line also."

And while the new additions might be excited about how Watson will make their jobs easier, it's clear from last season that for as good as the young quarterback was in his rookie year before he tore the ACL in his right leg, he needs some help as well.

"We feel like we've been able to upgrade the offensive line with the players that we added, but we're not done just yet," Texans general manager Brian Gaine said. "It's not just the offensive line. We're going to continue to work to put weapons around Deshaun, not just on the offensive line, but if it's perimeter players, if it's tight ends, if it's backs, if it's more offensive linemen.

"We're going to continue to do that to try to put everything in place to help Deshaun be successful on Sundays."

In the first week of free agency, the Texans added two interior linemen in Zach Fulton and Kelemete as well as Henderson at tackle. Although the Texans have added three offensive linemen, they still are in need of a left tackle. Houston started five players at left tackle last season and missed out on free agent Nate Solder, who signed a deal worth more than $15 million per season with the New York Giants last week.

Houston has at least three spots open on the offensive line as left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo and tackles Chris Clark and Breno Giacomini are unrestricted free agents. The Texans also could move on from right guard Jeff Allen, who struggled in his first two seasons in Houston, and has a potential out in the four-year deal he signed in 2016.

While looking at offensive linemen during free agency, Gaine said he focused on making sure they added versatile linemen with the ability to play multiple spots. Fulton and Kelemete can play all three interior spots and Henderson can play right or left tackle, according to Gaine.

Last season, the Texans had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Texans quarterbacks took 54 sacks last season, which was the second most in the NFL. After Houston traded starting left tackle Duane Brown, the team gave up 28 sacks, which was tied for the most in the NFL in that span. The offensive tackles were especially bad in the running game, as Houston ranked 29th, with just 2.31 average yards before first contact on rushes outside the tackles. The newcomers want to change that.

"I feel like as an O-line, we're going to set a standard here," Kelemete said. "We're going to be able to run the ball when we want to run the ball and we're going to be able to pass protect and protect Deshaun Watson."

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