Texans About to Find Out if Juice is Worth the Squeeze
An injury to a veteran forces a seemingly altered timeline at center.
The Houston Texans drafted Juice Scruggs in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. An investment that high surely meant he was headed for the starting lineup in week one in Baltimore. The team, it seemed, was taking it slow with Scruggs though.
What looked to be a meticulous plan to bring along the rookie now gets tossed aside.
Work with the first team was almost non-existent for the rookie. He’s been playing some guard as well in training camp. It makes sense. Bring the rookie along slowly. Build a foundation. Don’t repeat a mistake. The Texans spent 2022 with a player thrust too soon into action at center and it was a rough season for him.
That player, Scott Quessenberry, was having a great camp. It felt like if the team had to play a game after a few days of camp that Quessenberry would be the center. Now, he won’t be on the field this season. A practice injury Thursday that saw him carted off the field has cost Quessenberry his 2023 season.
It is time to let the Juice loose on the center spot. And time to find out how good Nick Caserio and his staff really are at scouting.
Scruggs was a projected middle-round prospect in what was considered a weaker draft class for the center position. Getting selected on day two wasn’t out of the question, but day three was the likely scenario for Scruggs. So the selection in the back part of the second round, after a trade-up, was considered by most a reach.
That was April. This is August. And Scruggs hasn’t been bad in training camp.
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DeMeco Ryans hasn’t shied away from praising Scruggs. Especially to his teammates.
“Very smart guy, picked up on the offense well,” Ryans said earlier this week, “and he’s a guy I highlighted in our team meeting yesterday just because of the deliberate technique he had on a run block, and being exactly where he needed to be with his hand placement, his footwork. It was fun to see. It was great that everybody could see how good of a job he’s doing in the run game.”
Ryans said on Thursday the team is pleased with where Scruggs is at this point. Their actions will tell the real story. If veterans are in for workouts that’s just due diligence. Former Texans center, and really the last guy to consistently play the position, Ben Jones is a free agent.
Anyone who shows up now though, is behind. Scruggs as well as fellow rookie Jarrett Patterson and veteran depth pieces Michael Deiter and Jimmy Morrissey have had the playbook for months. It doesn’t seem reasonable or realistic to expect someone to come in off the street, who was a free agent this time of year for a reason, pick up the playbook, and be ready to snap the ball to C.J. Stroud.
So, it’s up to Scruggs. He’s likely ascending to a role he was going to play this season no matter what, but it definitely feels like the Texans wanted this to happen a few weeks from now.
It’s not ideal for the Texans. A rookie center to go along with a rookie quarterback. It feels like there’s a chance to multiply the growing pains, but this was something that was in the plans, at some point, for this season. Just maybe not right now.
The team now gets to find what kind of Juice comes out of this squeeze.