When Austin Howard was signed this offseason, I, like most people, was excited about the prospect of adding a legitimate NFL caliber starting right tackle. I read Ravens fan blogs about why the Ravens were moving on from the massive veteran and most seemed to agree that the Ravens had younger, less expensive options and for a franchise up against the cap it just made sense to move on.
Naturally I assumed that a cap-casualty veteran in the last couple years of his career could come in and provide an upgrade for a line that desperately needed upgrading. After all, most Ravens fans described Howard as an average starter, an average starter would be amazing, I thought. What we’ve seen in the 2018 preseason has been far from average.
As it turns out those Ravens fans who described Howard as “average” weren’t lying or wrong. In 2017 it seems that Howard could still move:
Now, no one was going to mistake him for a great tackle. He struggled in the run game and he was unable to bend anywhere but at the waist. But he could still get out of his stance without getting blown up, instantly.
In fact, he could even use his length to run defenders past the QB:
He wasn’t graceful and thankfully for Derrick Morgan this wasn’t as bad as it looked:
Sure, his cut block looks like it might tear the ACL’s of half the leagues pass rushers but that pass rusher didn’t get anywhere near Joe Flacco. I’m a glass half full kind of guy.
So those Ravens fans weren’t out of their mind. Howard was average in 2017. He wasn’t a guy you would want to run behind and he was prone to an inside pass rush, but he was good enough to start.
So far 2018 hasn’t shown us any of that. Howard has looked like his feet are made of concrete and it seems he may have some strange inner ear issue that has left him unable to play with any kind of balance at all. The Colts needed a tackle when they signed Austin Howard. The Colts still need a tackle, months later.
So far this is the type of play I’ve come to expect:
Excellent job by Tim Williams (56) PF turning the corner against Austin Howard (79). Beat him with speed. #Ravens pic.twitter.com/KxWILEbpKz— Clint Lamb (@ClintRLamb) August 21, 2018
To be fair Howard probably would have been beaten in the same way in 2017, Williams is a great athlete and Howard hasn’t looked like a good athlete since 2016 with the Raiders.
But if there’s one play that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get out of my mind when someone mentions Austin Howard, it’s this one:
Not the best block I've ever seen if I'm being honest. pic.twitter.com/3UayKGyAhH— Josh Boeke (@JoshBoeke) August 26, 2018
I’m positive that in the 20+ years I’ve been watching and enjoying football that I’ve seen a worse block. I know at some point in a youth, middle school or high school game I’ve seen a child do something worse than the above. I’ve probably seen it at the college or pro level too, but strangely enough I can’t remember ever seeing a block this bad. The reaching backwards while being unable to do anything is a nice touch.
At first I thought that the interior defensive linemen Solomon Thomas #94 rocked Howard off balance allowing Cassius Marsh #54 to loop inside, but then I watched the play again and again and finally I saw it.
Austin Howard is falling backward off balance before Solomon Thomas makes contact. Austin Howard was falling all by himself, like an 80 year old who had one too many gin and tonics when Dancing Queen comes on at the senior center. This play, by itself isn’t bad enough to say that someone doesn’t deserve a roster spot, but when combined with everything else we’ve seen during the preseason, this play just confirms what we know, Austin Howard doesn’t belong in a Colts uniform in 2018. Unfortunately for Howard, I don’t think he belongs in an NFL uniform either.
Hopefully good things happen for the guy and hopefully they happen in any city outside of Indiana.