Senio Kelemete and Xavier Su’a-Filo are friends and they also have much in common, sharing the bonds of an American Samoan heritage, PAC-12 grooming and, now, the Texans’ left guard position. Further, they have become AFC South rivals.
Of course, what the Texans are hoping is that Kelemete, whom they signed as a free agent last spring after letting Su’a-Filo become one, too, will prove to be the vastly superior left guard, which has been made his position to lose during this preseason.
Su’a-Filo, a Tennessee Titan after his four ho-hum seasons in a Texans uniform, started 31 of their past 32 games there without convincing Bill O’Brien he deserved to own the job long term. He left Houston as one of the lowest-rated offensive linemen in the league, according to a cross-section of analysts charged with determining same.
Kelemete arrives with mixed baggage of his own in terms of his play-to-play, never mind day-to-day, consistency. But he was at least part of an O-line in New Orleans, where he started 22 games from 2015 through 2017 – playing every position except center – for a group that last season permitted its running backs to lead the NFL in yards gained before defenders closed within a yard of them. As arcane a statistical category as that may be, it casts Kelemete and his fellow Saints grunts in a positive light.
So does this one: New Orleans allowed fewer sacks per game (1.3) a year ago than every team except the Rams.
Again, how much individual credit Kelemete deserves is difficult to quantify, but he seemed well worth the risk of the three-year, $12 million contract the Texans gave him. On Tuesday, O’Brien called him “a battler” and praised his people skills, meaning he’ll be a “good guy to have in the locker room.” Kelemete’s having been paid to protect Drew Brees means he’s also a good guy to have in the O-line mix, saving Deshaun Watson from harm.