While it’s really easy to praise or bash an NFL quarterback based solely on the end result, box score and other assorted stats, all the other moving pieces play a big role in earning that praise or punishment…
According to NFL.com, over the last three games, the Texans’ running backs have posted a higher yards-per-carry mark (4.79) than Brock Osweiler's yards-per-pass mark (4.29). In last Sunday’s game, the gulf was even wider, as the backs racked up 5.5 YPC and Brock only managed 3.3 YPP.
Talk about – you know, the underlying mantra of this column - finding a way to win.
Despite no legitimate passing game threat, the Texans’ offense has managed to field the fifth best rushing attack in the league so far. They’ve done that behind a patchwork offensive line that hasn’t played one single game with all the starters and barely played an entire game with both starting tackles.
Now, referring back to the opening statement of this week’s Red Zone Play, those who truly understand football know that Brock Osweiler deserves praise for the success of the running attack.
Because Brock has a lot to do with it.
And not just for the “baby giraffe takes off for its first gallop” runs when Osweiler pulls the ball in and races downfield (for those keeping track at home, he’s gobbled up 72 yards at 3.8 YPC and gained six first downs with legs that seem better suited for a Toys R Us mascot than a scrambling quarterback).
Ultimately, Brock’s the one on the field orchestrating that running game, handing the ball off, pointing out the defensive looks, calling audibles into or out of certain plays based on those defensive fronts, etc. Most fans never realize how much a quarterback has to do with the run game.
During the Jacksonville game this past weekend, the Texans’ defense, arguably the superior unit between the two teams, had trouble getting pressure on Blake Bortles in their first few possessions – even though Bortles pressured himself into throwing a pick six to Kareem Jackson right off the bat.
On one of the very first plays the Texans ran, Osweiler barely had the ball in his hands before an untouched Jags linebacker was in his face. This continued several more times throughout the first half. When looking at the stats, it would seem the offensive line did a great job protecting Brock – but watching the game tells a different story.
Osweiler was sacked once and only hit a few more times. To a box-score analyst, the problem there is squarely on Brock.
Watching the game, again, tells a different story. Especially if taken into the same context as what a young quarterback can do with a Pro Bowl offensive line. Take a look at the Dallas Cowboys, currently sitting with a league best 8-1 record. They have the best offensive line in football right now, and rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are making the most of it.
No one here wants to talk about the Cowboys, especially me.
What Brock’s stats, combined with the visual on field evidence, shows is he’s spooked. He gets rid of the ball far sooner than he needs to and ultimately, his talents and skills don’t work in an offense where the ball needs to be gone in the blink of an eye. Maybe Kurt Warner could light up opposing secondaries with this offense, but Brock certainly won’t until Rick Smith brings in some offensive linemen not named Duane Brown who can pass protect.
Now, as we discussed in the preseason, the Texans are first and foremost a rushing team. The running game has finally found its stride once more with the loss of Arian Foster and the addition of Lamar Miller. Say what you will about that proving the offensive line is doing their job. I think it only shows they’re doing half of it.
When the offensive line can’t pass block well enough for longer routes to develop, then the coaches (who knows if it’s Godsey or O’Brien calling the plays these days?) need to get more creative and scheme up misdirection plays, shorter drops, play-action, bootlegs and all the other things that inherently give Brock more time to allow a receiver to get open without worrying about opposing defenders driving the pain-train right into his grill every time he gets the ball.
Not to mention two of his favorite targets, Will Fuller and Jaelen Strong, didn’t suit up last week.
In the end, Brock Osweiler is the quarterback for the Houston Texans. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Dislike it, hate it, bash him, whatever, but finding ways to help him out is the only way this team improves.
If Peyton Manning, Gary Kubiak, John Elway, Bill O’Brien, Rick Smith and George Godsey all think Osweiler can be a great quarterback in the NFL, obviously the potential is there. The Texans need to find the key to unlock it. If they don’t by the end of December, this will be yet another lost season.
If they do figure it out, a home game in February might still be possible. After all, Brock strung together four whole quarters without turning the ball over. It’s something to build on…