HOUSTON -- Texans head coach Bill O'Brien has a decision to make at quarterback, but regardless of whether he goes with Tom Savage or rookie Deshaun Watson, Houston needs to see improvement from its offensive line.
"We've got to do a better job of protecting the quarterback, both from a coaching standpoint and from a playing standpoint," O'Brien said. "No doubt about it."
The line gave up a team-record 10 sacks. From left to right, the Texans started Kendall Lamm (left tackle), Xavier Su’a-Filo (left guard), Nick Martin (center), Jeff Allen (right guard) and Breno Giacomini (right tackle) in Sunday's loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. O'Brien shuffled the lineup during the game, at one point playing Chris Clark at left tackle and Greg Mancz at left guard in place of Su’a-Filo, and then right guard after Allen left with an ankle injury.
Savage, who played the first half before getting benched for Watson, was sacked six times and faced a lot of pressure, especially from his blind side. Watson was able to use his mobility to escape the pocket and make plays, but was still sacked four times.
The Texans are without left tackle Duane Brown, who is still holding out. O'Brien said he has "no idea" when there will be a resolution with Brown. The veteran told reporters last week that he definitely will play football this season but did not offer when that would be.
Mancz, who started at center in 2016 while Martin was recovering from an ankle injury, played well at guard on Sunday. O'Brien said he can absolutely "envision Mancz starting" on Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, and thought he "hung in there" and "played tough" against Jacksonville.
O'Brien praised the job Martin was able to do in his first NFL game, but said although Martin "did some good things," he can play even better.
"He's basically a rookie because he didn't play last year," O'Brien said. "I thought he played tough the first time out there. He's a very good player, a very good, young player. We think he's going to get better and better. Like I've always said about Nick [Martin], I think he has a great future in the league."
On Thursday, the Texans will face a Bengals team that has the playmakers to give Houston some trouble up front, including defensive tackle Geno Atkins, defensive end Carlos Dunlap and rookie outside linebacker Carl Lawson. O'Brien said he knows his line has to be better if the Texans hope to beat the Bengals.
"There's a lot of different things that we can do from a scheme point," O'Brien said. "There's a lot of different things that the players need to do from a playing standpoint. Everybody in that room in there needs to improve. We've been able to do that in the past. Look, it wasn't a good day. No excuses. All of us have to do better, and that's what today is all about."