Without Duane Brown, Texans forced to rely on unproven starters at tackle

HOUSTON -- Week 1 is quickly approaching, and the Houston Texans' most important offensive lineman is all but set to miss the season opener.

Left tackle Duane Brown has missed the Texans’ entire offseason program, training camp and preseason, an absence that is thought to be contract-related. He told reporters Monday while donating food and supplies to those affected by Hurricane Harvey that he “definitely [plans] on playing football this year.”

Until then, the Texans likely will rely on an unproven trio on the outside of their line, with Kendall Lamm set to start at left tackle, and either Chris Clark or Breno Giacomini at right tackle. Clark played both tackle positions last season because of injuries to Brown and right tackle Derek Newton, who will miss the season with torn patellar tendons in both legs, but the veteran did not prove he's capable of sustained success as a starter.

Lamm, who is entering his third season in Houston, played in 15 games last season and started three. He also came off the bench as an extra tight end on short-yardage plays and in goal-line situations. Giacomini signed with the Texans in the offseason after being cut by the Jets.

“I feel good about our tackle situation,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “We’ve had these guys around for a while.

“Duane [Brown] hasn’t been here for a long time. I think everybody knows how I feel about Duane. Look, he’s doing what he believes is best for him, and we’re coaching the guys that are here and we feel good about our 53-man roster.”

When asked how quickly it would take Brown to get up to speed before playing in a regular-season game, O'Brien said, "You'd have to ask him that. I have no idea."

Last season, the Texans’ offensive line struggled to start the season without Brown, but it showed great improvement when he returned from injury in Week 5. The Texans ranked 11th with 32 sacks allowed, and the group knows they need to continue to keep the quarterback upright if the offense is to improve in 2017.

That task starts with Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Quarterback Tom Savage will make his third career start, his first to open a season, but he’s going to be playing with a depleted offensive line.

The fourth-year quarterback has said a focus this offseason has been on making sure he is quick with his release and getting rid of the ball as fast as he can after the snap.

In the Texans’ third and final preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, the offensive line allowed four sacks and nine quarterback hits.

While there are question marks at tackle, the rest of the line also has to prove itself in the NFL. Guards Xavier Su'a-Filo and Jeff Allen are coming off disappointing seasons and center Nick Martin missed last season with an ankle injury.

“I just have faith, up front, that we’re going to do our jobs, playing right next to each other and what we’re going to do,” Su’a-Filo said. “We’re all about trusting everyone to do their job, so as linemen, our job is to protect the quarterback and run the ball and as long as we execute that, I think we’ll be fine.”