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Tape Study: Texans 24, Jaguars 31 -- Defensive Indifference

Apologies for taking so long to get this up. Between recording some podcasts for Houston Diehards and an extremely busy time with the family, it just wasn't getting done last week. I'm playing catchup this week, and I hope to have the Jets game up before Sunday as well. 

Anyway, let's ignore that final play. Pretend it didn't happen. Hail Marys are, inevitably, fluke plays. I don't deal in them because they don't tell me anything about what was happening on a play-by-play basis. While the lack of attention to detail that went into it was par for the course with this coaching staff, it doesn't do much good to break a play down that you'll see once in a lifetime. Instead, I want to look at two things that are becoming increasingly common, and another that was actually quite rare. 

Frank Bush, who #kubiakbelievesinyou Gary Kubiak has continued to let coach the defense despite any actual evidence of improvement, carried through on his threats. This defense has been scaled down, and this defense has returned to its roots:  Read-and-react. Of course, the problem with that is that if you simplify something that was already too simple to begin with, you wind up with a game plan so vanilla that it might as well just be ice shavings from the freezer.

Behind the jump, a look at how the Jaguars exploited that in both the passing game and the running game, and a look at the reasons they were able to slow Arian Foster down.

Crumbling contain.

The Texans run defense, the better part of their defense by default, was under siege by Jacksonville for the entire game. While you typically would think that Jacksonville has a very good running offense, specifically because Maurice Jones-Drew is pretty great at football, the Jaguars are only rushing at a DVOA of 0.8% through Week 11, and that's after counting the damage done in this game. The offensive line that the Jaguars lined up was by no means pushing piles and opening holes at will. Instead, the Jaguars took full advantage of that read-and-react with a ton of misdirection to get the Texans to lose contain. Fullback gives, fakes, end arounds, fake end arounds, and a steady stream of counters. 

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Here we have Mario Williams honoring the fullback fake, Kareem Jackson focusing entirely on his man, and an easy first down as a result. The Jaguars mixed in some actual fullback runs in this game, which I assume were just based on game theory; you want to give Bush a few bits of cheese so he continues to play cat and mouse. 

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This time we have another pitch, and despite the box being almost completely stacked, the Jaguars manage to pick up a first down thanks to the wild aggression of Antonio Smith. I have read some comments here or there about him being a good run defender. Trust me, he's average at best. As far as penetrating the line goes, no one on this team does it better. But if the first move is a dud, Smith is a non-factor in the play.

The Jags were constantly able to exploit this, and with both the fakes and the actual trick plays later (the Mike Thomas end around) they got whatever they wanted on the ground.

Stop me before my blitz is picked up again.

One of the main things that I have noticed over the past few weeks is that the Texans are starting to get absolutely murdered by WR screens. I saw a bit on NFL Matchup the week before the Chargers game that was nominally about how great Peyton Manning was (you didn't think they'd actually talk about the Texans, did you?) by seeing through our coverage scheme. The main takeaway from that play was that our safeties were giving away the gut blitz by their positioning on the field, and the Colts audibled out of their play into a WR screen. I'll try and record that one to the hard drive sometime in the near future.

Edited to add the video below:


You'd really like to think that two weeks into the future, that the Texan defensive "braintrust" would have figured out that this was happening, right? Especially if it were on a nationally televised show that NFL coaches and management types watch intently? Well, about that:

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Yeah...not so much. But don't worry I'm sure they made halftime adjus--

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A lot has gone wrong with the Texans defense this year, and I've spilled plenty of vitriol on them for things such as "forgetting that running backs are eligible pass receivers" and "playing off wide receivers so much that the quick slant will always be there." But the fact that this team's defense, despite being broken down ON NATIONAL TV as exploitable, continues to repeat the same mistake over and over again...

I'm running out of superlatives here. If I owned the Texans, I would've fired Frank Bush after every game this season, plus the three games to start the 2009 season, so I can't just say I'd fire him. The fact that this happened two game days after the show originally aired is, short of pointshaving or something of that ilk, pretty much the most damning thing I can say about any defense. It has earned every bit of its failure this year.

Arian meets Pot Roast.

The Jaguars really dug into Arian Foster, allowing him three 10+ yard gains rushing, and then also 10 carries of two or fewer yards. Us Texans fans have become accustomed to Foster getting phased out of the offensive gameplan, but never because he actually might have deserved to be. What happened here?

Well, a confluence of a lot of different factors. For the most part, the Jaguars were content with stacking the box on Foster. I also thought he looked unsure with the turf, which you could see on a few separate plays. Five of his fifteen carries were in the red zone, which usually leads to lower yards per carry. He didn't have a very good game running, but outside of a few runs I thought his vision was fine. Honestly, probably the biggest factor was blown blocks: 

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You can see a few blown chop blocks up front here, and that limits this play from ever getting off the ground. However, even without good run blocking, Foster is capable of producing a few good runs in a day. But even great backs have their limits, and I thought the Jaguars had clearly decided that if anyone was beating them on that day, it was Schaub. He damn near would've if it weren't for all the (predictable) offensive mistakes and a certain play that we're all still trying to forget.