There is no position in football more important to a team’s success than the left tackle on the offensive line. The left tackle protects the backside/blindside of a right-handed quarterback. If the quarterback is the team’s most valuable possession, keeping that possession healthy and upright is the job of the left tackle.
Julién Davenport is the Texans’ starting left tackle and QB Deshaun Watson’s bodyguard.
Davenport was a fourth-round selection (130th overall) from Bucknell University in the 2017 draft. At 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds with long arms, he is tailor-made for the position. He played in 11 games as a rookie, starting four as heir apparent to the position after former Pro Bowl tackle Duane Brown was traded to Seattle.
Despite his imposing physical measurables, there were questions concerning if and how quickly he could adapt to NFL level competition, coming from an FCS program (Division 1-AA).
“I always had confidence,” Davenport said. “[The NFL] was my goal. I’ve made it here, now I want to excel. I’m never satisfied, I continue to work. I’ve never let the fact that I went to a smaller school undermine my confidence. People can say what they want. That’s just extra motivation for me.”
Clearly, the coaching staff is pleased with the progression of their young left tackle, starting with coach Bill O’Brien’s training camp observations.
“I thought he really progressed well during OTAs [organized team activities],” O’Brien said. “I think that during the first three practices, he really has improved a lot in some of the techniques we’ve asked him to improve on. I think as long as he has the attitude of getting better every single day, which I know he does, he’ll be fine.”
Offensive line coach Mike Devlin echoed the sentiments of O’Brien on the evolution of 23-year-old Davenport.
“He’s working hard,” Devlin said. “He has to go against J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney [in practice]. “Going against that group should help him prepare. He’s working hard at it. He’s trying to take consistent steps, trying to use his length and learn.”
As a starter, Davenport understands the responsibility of his position.
“It’s a big role for every team and every single aspect of football – high school, college, NFL. You just have to work hard and do your best to protect your quarterback because you know everything revolves around the quarterback – protecting that number one guy, working with the guys next to you on the O-line and just being able to be technically sound and good every single play. You can’t take a play off. It’s my job, I make sure I go out there and do it every day.”
Knowing the expectations for the upcoming season, Davenport prepared in the offseason.
“I’ve really honed in on my technique coming from year one to year two,” he said. “My sets, my steps are all a part of the constant process of trying to get better which is what I work on. As a unit, we’ve worked hard, changing our bodies, progressively getting stronger.”
Davenport understands that building a productive offensive line is a team effort and the cohesion extends beyond the practice field, which is something he and his O-line teammates have been working to perfect.
“We’ve jelled together very well,” he said. “We’re always hanging together. We do a group chat. We make sure we do everything together. That’s natural and easy for us.”
In the six games that Watson started last year, the Texans had the most prolific offense in the NFL. For the team to have success in 2018, Watson must be protected and that protection starts with Davenport and his offensive line mates.