HOUSTON, Texas — Barreling across the line of scrimmage last season, Houston Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard delivered his patented long-arm pass-rush move to shove offensive tackles into the backfield.
He emerged as a dangerous pass rusher in 2021, recording a career-high eight sacks, nine tackles for losses, and a dozen quarterback hits.
Between this favorite and well-practiced piece of his game, along with bull rushes, chops, rips, swim moves, and combinations of those moves, Greenard has been expanding his repertoire to pressure quarterbacks relentlessly.
Entering year three, Houston Texans’ Jon Greenard preparing for significant jump
During a breakthrough second season for the Texans’ former third-round draft pick from the University of Florida, Greenard represented one of the few bright spots in a 4-13 season. And this year, retired Texans defensive end N.D. Kalu predicts a 10-sack season for Greenard.
“Hey man, I love the good wishes,” Greenard said. “I’m definitely going to take the good juju.”
Heading into his third NFL season, the Texans’ pass rusher is working on the finer points of his game in coach Lovie Smith’s 4-3 defensive scheme and setting his ambitions on more production.
“I’m honing in on all the details, I’m over-analyzing everything,” Greenard said during the Texans’ annual Care Volunteer Day at the team’s YMCA. “I pretty much beat myself up on that. I pretty much try to hone in on all the details and things I need to work on and get better. I’m always trying to steadily evolve my game, mentally, physically, spiritually, all of that. I pretty much try to balance everything out.”
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After the Texans promoted Lovie Smith to head coach from defensive coordinator and hired new defensive line coach Jacques Cesaire, they’re looking for even more out of Greenard as he has made a full recovery from a foot injury that ended his season early.
“You won’t have to worry about playing with passion and emotion on the team, that’s for sure,” Greenard said when Smith was hired. “I’m excited about the hire, but I also know we got a lot of work to do. So, I’m ready to turn this thing around.”
And how does Greenard do his part to turn around the Texans’ fortunes? It’s about playing hard, working smart, and always chasing the football. There’s also a developing savvy with Greenard to go with his determination. He’s learning fast and is one of the Texans’ best players regardless of position. Moreover, Greenard’s arguably one of the most valuable players for a team trying to build for the future.
“Just playing relentless, just handling my job, reading my keys, beating my guy, just trying to make a play,” Greenard said. “I mean overall, the defense, we’re all trying to make a play. I was just at the right place, right time, I think.”
With each move, Greenard proved his point. His aggressive style allows him to regularly penetrate the backfield. He’s become a key element of Smith’s 4-3 scheme that relies heavily on the four-man front to get after the quarterback.
Turning offseason work into results
Greenard’s average as a pass rusher is incredibly high. At one point during the first half of last season, the Georgia native was leading the NFL with a sack for every 13.7 pass-rushing snaps played.
Greenard is regarded as an ascending young player whose rare motor and growing understanding of how to apply his moves are paying dividends. He’s become the top pass rusher on the Texans. Greenard finished with three more sacks than former Texans defensive end J.J. Watt’s team-high five sacks in 2020, and was a major factor despite the Texans’ record.
“Jon’s a dog,” defensive tackle Ross Blacklock said. “He’s just finding ways to get back there. We all kind of work together in sync. We all try to figure out ways for each other to win. We’ve had long talks, and I know he’s ready to take over. Each game he’s just getting better and better, and it’s exciting to watch. I’m beyond happy for him, and I just know the sky’s the limit for him.”
At 6-foot-3, 263 pounds, Greenard is a classic tweener who plays the game with a lot of power. He’s a student of the game whose first-step quickness tells a different story than his ordinary 4.87 40-yard dash time. Additionally, Greenard’s 10-yard split of 1.71 seconds is impressive.
Greenard’s first-step quickness, violent power, and ability to create leverage allow him to consistently win at the line of scrimmage. He has an extensive repertoire of pass-rushing moves. He combines strength, quickness, and heavy hands to control blockers and disengage to create big plays.
Greenard, who also battled a shoulder injury last season, had two forced fumbles and four passes defensed after an offseason spent working with Brandon Jordan, a pass-rushing expert hired this year as Michigan State’s pass-rushing specialist.
“Jon stepped up a lot,” Jordan said in a telephone interview. “He looked good. He worked hard in the summertime. It’s just the beginning. He was fighting injuries last season. He’s got a long way to grow. For him to put up the numbers he put up this year, his upside is out of the roof.”
Now, Greenard has worked overtime training with several of his teammates, including defensive tackle Maliek Collins, under the tutelage of Jordan, who trains some of the top pass rushers around the NFL.
“Anytime you work with him, it opens up things from top to bottom,” Greenard said. “Everything he sees from me, it opens up a lot of things from a pass-rushing repertoire. That’s why so many people go to him to work.”
After spending time mulching and painting lines in the parking lot alongside Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair, McNair’s wife and team foundation vice president Hannah, and teammates Roy Lopez and Nico Collins, Greenard reflected on the state of the team.
“I’m excited,” Greenard said. “We’ve got a lot of new pieces. We’ve got a lot of fire from last year. We saw glimpses and pieces of what we can be doing as a team and as a unit. I’m excited. We’re doing our thing in the weight room and on the playbook as well. We have to let everything come to fruition.”