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Saints defense faces early season test against the new-look Houston Texans

The Houston Texans made a couple of blockbuster trades over the weekend just in time for season opener against the New Orleans Saints. 

NFL: Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints will have their hands full when they go up against the freshly retooled roster of the Houston Texans. While the offensive line may take a sigh of relief with the recent trade of Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks, the secondary and defensive line’s jobs just got a little bit harder.

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans were able to snag Laremy Tunsil—one of the best young left tackles in the league from the Miami Dolphins. The offensive line for the Texans was the most porous in the league last year, leading the league in sacks given up with 62. Tunsil’s presence should be felt immediately in week one against the Saints.

Lining up at left tackle, Tunsil will be going against Marcus Davenport for most of the game. While Davenport has shown flashes of improvement during the preseason, Tunsil will still be a challenge for the second-year edge rusher.

The Saints will already be without two of their top interior pass rushers with Sheldon Rankins still recovering from his Achilles injury and David Onyemata serving his one game suspension. With Tunsil locking down the left side, this will allow the rest of the Texan’s offensive line to focus on Cameron Jordan. Jordan should see plenty of double teams from right guard Zach Fulton and right tackle Seantrel Henderson, who both have been less than stellar in recent seasons.

Tunsil’s presence should also be felt in the run game, which also received a makeover recently via trades. Running back Duke Johnson was acquired from the Cleveland Browns earlier in the offseason. Johnson, who has a 4.3 yards per carry career average is also a threat as a receiver, having 235 receptions for 2170 yards in his four seasons.

After starting running back Lamar Miller went down with a torn ACL in the preseason, the Texans made another move and received Carlos Hyde from the Kansas City Chiefs to pair with Johnson. Hyde was drafted by in 2014 and has bounced around three different teams since leaving the San Francisco 49ers in 2018. He’s averaged 4.0 yards per carry and 5.6 yards per reception in his career.

The combination of Johnson and Hyde add another dimension to the Texan’s offense that could help to create mismatches with the Saint’s defense.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to Tunsil in the Miami trade, the Texans also received the former Saint Kenny Stills, who is still a dangerous deep threat, averaging 16 yards per reception for his career. The Texans already had a solid duo at receiver with 2-time All-Pro Deandre Hopkins and the speedy Will Fuller. The addition of Stills adds yet another threat the Saints’ secondary will have to defend against in the opening match-up.

The past few seasons have seen the Saint’s defense has been slow out the gate, to say the least. In the last two season openers, the defense gave up 403 and 529 yards respectively, on their way to losing both games.

The defense can’t afford to start this game off slow and expect to go to Los Angeles the next week for an NFC Championship rematch at 1-0.