Alfred Blue, DeAndre Hopkins, Demaryius Thomas, Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thoams, Jordan Thomas, Keke Coutee, Lamar Miller, NFL, Ryan Griffin, Tennessee Titans
So having written in the week that I hadn’t paid enough attention to the Houston Texans given their current eight game win streak and place atop the AFC South, I thought I would make them the focus of this week’s amateur adventures in film. I was obviously tempted to watch their defence given how well JJ Watt is playing, but the bigger unknown for me was what they were doing on offence so that is the tape I watched, although this also led me to watch a second team putting up a lot of points against the Titans’ defence.
So much like the Colts offence I watched last week, the Texans used a lot of 11 personnel in a shotgun formation and 12 personnel in singleback formation with the quarterback under centre. However, the execution was pretty different and part of that is due to the difference in quality between the two lines. It wasn’t that the Texans’ o-line would get no push, and they were also pulling offensive linemen and tight ends in the running game like the Colts would, but they were not as effective or efficient in-between the tackles. The Texans also have a two back rotation and the real effective running attack was when Lamar Miller attacked the edges of the defence. He only had to escape two would be tacklers on the run that went ninety-seven yards for a touchdown as once he’d got past the linebacker and safety it was foot race to the end zone, but even if you take out that run he still averaged 5.9 yards on eleven carries. What made the Texans run game so effective was the combination of this production from Miller with the read-option threat of Deshaun Watson who also had seventy yards on nine carries. One of those was a scramble where the defence opened up before Watson who was able to use his athleticism to exploit a seam in the defence. The other back who saw continued usage, Alfred Blue, was not as effective in the run game as he tended to run between the tackles but he was also used as a slot receiver close to the line as part of empty backfield looks and did catch a pass for thirteen yards as well as lead blocking for Lamar Miller on a play.
If that was the source of the Texans success running the ball, the word I would use to describe their passing game was efficient with a few deep shots thrown in, but in the main Watson was not asked to drop back and make complex reads of the defence. Often the ball would come out quickly for receivers who had been schemed open, or for short passes over the middle. Still, Watson completed nineteen of his twenty four passes for two hundred and ten yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Yes he gave up four sacks where on occasion you might want him to throw the ball away, but with his athleticism you can understand why he is confident in his ability to escape the rush and on one play he actually managed to duck under an attempted sack and scramble for a gain. The other nice thing was that I didn’t see Watson taking the kind of shots that earlier in the season meant he had to play games with broken ribs and for one game saw him take a bus to a road game rather than fly. It should also be pointed out that Watson distributed the ball nicely, with nine separate players catching a pass.
In terms of receivers the Texans used Keke Coutee a lot in the slot and he could be seen running a lot of jet motion although the Texans didn’t actually ask him to run the ball. The obvious stand out is still DeAndre Hopkins who had a relatively quiet game, although when you generate two hundred and eighty-one yards on the ground that will happen, but is still an incredibly dynamic player whilst Demaryius Thomas is playing as a solid complement and caught both of Deshaun Watson’s touchdown passes.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, the Texans would often have two tight-ends on the field with Ryan Griffinin leading the way in terms of receiving yards, but him and Jordan Thomas spent a lot of time on the field with Thomas often moving in motion and pulling to block a lot. Meanwhile Jordan Akins played more of a H-back role as line up and lined a full back a number of times as well as playing tight end.
I would say that you can still tell the Deshaun Watson is a young quarterback, but the offence has clearly developed over the season and Watson was working his way back from a nasty knee injury so it makes sense that it would take some time to get back to his best. The form he had last season before the injury was never going to be sustainable in the long term, but this offence has been effective although Watson still takes unnecessary sacks at times and can be flustered in the pocket, but with time and and an improved offensive line the sky is the limit for this team in the near future.