Healthy Laremy Tunsil key to Texans QB Davis Mills’ progress
Houston Texans offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil (78) during pregame warmups before an NFL preseason game against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday, August 13, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson)

Laremy Tunsil isn’t a man who uses a lot of words to explain his thoughts.

Ask the Texans’ two-time Pro Bowl left tackle what will second-year quarterback Davis Mills bring to the team this season.

Tunsil: “Dog.”

How do you define Laremy Tunsil?

Tunsil: “Dog.”

What about emerging rookie running back Dameon Pierce?

Tunsil: “Dog.”

What have you seen from rookie left guard Kenyon Green so far in camp?

Tunsil: “Dog.”

The thing is the Texans didn’t make Tunsil the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL because of his expressiveness. It was all about this ability to protect the quarterback’s blindside and to keep him upright. And when healthy, Tunsil is without question one of the best in the NFL.

For first-year coach Lovie Smith’s money – figuratively and literally – Tunsil’s superior athletic ability and the way he plays the most important position on the offensive line are the attributes that make him stand out against other veteran tackles in the league.

“We could talk a while about what separates Laremy,” Smith said. “There’s a reason we pay him more than anybody else on our football team. He’s not a good player, he’s a special player, a special man, his presence around.”

Hearing his coach’s thoughts about him made Tunsil open up a little bit more and show his humorous side in the process.

“That sounds good to me. I’m going to get another bag, right? I’m just joking,” Tunsil said as he laughed. “I mean, it’s great, just getting praise like that from a head coach like Lovie Smith who led a team to the Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears. So, it feels great.”

The Texans showed their belief in Tunsil this offseason when there was much speculation that the team might pursue a trade for the coveted left tackle following a season in which he missed most of with season-ending thumb surgery last October. But the team made the decision to bring back Tunsil, who is due to make $17.7 million this season and $18.5 million in 2023.

The thought process is simple: a healthy Tunsil is the key to Mills’ success.

Tunsil, meanwhile, has returned to a new offense installed by Pep Hamilton and a new energy around the team. Hamilton pledged that the running game will be improved which could take some pressure off Mills and the offensive line this season.

“We went and got Pep Hamilton,” said Tunsil, who came over from Miami in 2019 in a blockbuster deal that cost the Texans first-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021. “We’re ‘finna’ get this rolling.”

Tunsil, who says his hand and thumb are 100%, is having fun with the new offense, although there have been no signs of where he jokingly envisions the offense might go this season.

“I like the creativity,” said Tunsil, who was held out of last week’s preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints.  “You know, put L.T. [Tunsil] at quarterback. I can get a little pass down the field. We can switch it up, but I do like the creativity.”

Tunsil also likes what he is seeing from his teammates under the new leadership of Smith, who is big on player accountability.

“In the offseason program, I think the attendance was 90-plus,” Tunsil said. “So that speaks for itself right there. [Smith] preaches that all the time, follow his direction as he leads. We’re going to follow him. Ninety-plus [percentage] for offseason attendance is pretty special. I was there too.”