clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Texans-Redskins Review: Shallow Thoughts

Here are some of the finer details from Sunday’s Texans game.

Houston Texans v Washington Redskins Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

—Let’s dispel this notion the Washington Redskins are a good football team. They’re mediocre. Like Tennessee, they have some talent, but don’t do anything particularly well aside from have a positive turnover differential. Entering this game Washington was 6-3, but overperformed their expected win loss record by 1.5 games, was 3-0 in one score games, and had a turnover differential of +11, good for 3rd in the league. Winning games thanks to missed field goals, and extremely stupid things like the Buccaneers having 500 yards and only 3 points. On Turkey Day they’ll be playing for first place in the division against Dallas. At least the Cowboys can play some ruthless defense.

Kareem Jackson had some great tackles yesterday. He chased down Trey Quinn from behind on a jet sweep. He suffocated a run play by lowering his shoulder. His best one was immediate. Alex Smith attempted to beat Houston how he had previously, throw a bunch of screen passes.

Washington has a nice play design. They have two blockers for two defenders. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney is unblocked, but inside, and it’s uncertain he could make a play here. Jackson reads Jordan Reed right away. When he sees Reed loop wide, he screams across the receiver and lifts a leg to rugby tackle Reed. The ball pops out. Incompletion. It’s a shame Jackson tackles are becoming mainstream. This used to be our thing.

—I want to become an outside consultant for teams playing the Texans. I would get paid to simply tell them, don’t run the football directly at them. Just don’t. You’re wasting your team. Do you like 3rd and 7? Because that’s what happens when you run inside zone on first and second down right at Houston. Overall, the Redskins had 24 carries for 124 yards, which comes out to 4.3 yards a carry. These numbers are misconstrued and inflated by quarterback scrambles. Colt McCoy had 7 carries for 35 yards. Alex Smith had 4 carries for 33 yards. Washington’s running backs had only 3 yards a carry, and Adrian Peterson specifically averaged 3.2.

Stop doing this. It’s a complete waste of time. Here they run at Watt. He swims over the block, and sits as the tackle pushes a Ford Ranger in the mud on his own. The guard leaves once the double is split and does the same against Benardrick McKinney. Nothing.

Here Jadeveon Clowney is walked up to the ‘A’ gap right before the snap. Call an audible. Don’t run the inside zone. Clowney swims over the center and picks up another tackle for a loss.

This is a trap play with the flex wing tight end catching the defensive tackle in the jaw while the guard climbs to the second level. The primary action doesn’t matter. Watt jams right tackle Morgan Moses in the face and swims back inside to make the tackle.

Better yet, pay me to stand next the offensive coordinator and give me a water bottle. I’ll spray him in the face every time he calls one of these nimrod plays, and shout NO, and flick him on the nose. Or don’t. Keeping picking up three yards a carry.

—It isn’t impossible to run against Houston. You just have to think outside the box. But where is the box? It doesn’t matter. It’s a metaphor. You can’t run at Watt and Clowney, or away from them, and the interior is filled with capable defenders. The only choices you got is to misdirect traffic and confuse defenders, or have a jump cutting running back.

This is a perfect play. Washington leaves Watt unblocked and has Moses block down. Watt sees Jordan Reed. He’s alone, and expecting Reed to be coming for him. He does as he’s supposed to, flatten down the line of scrimmage like a mouse under a pantry door. Reading the running back he attempts to crash under the block and make a play on the ball. Alex Smith has the ball. Magic. The puller isn’t for him. It’s for the alley defender. 2nd and 4 becomes 1st and 10.

I love when any team runs this play. The line blocks inside zone. As long as the backside defensive end crashes down, and the tight end gets to the safety it’s a first down. Clowney squeezes. Vernon Davis gets to Johnathan Joseph. McCoy picks up the first down.

The nature of their defense leaves Houston susceptible to cutbacks. Clowney and Watt do whatever they can to penetrate the backfield and disrupt the play. The second level defenders fill in from there, and the secondary cleans up the rest. It’s difficult for the second level. They have to read both the defensive end and the back to make the correct choice. When Watt and Clowney crash inwards, it’s up to them to stay wide and devour the cutback.

Both of Peterson’s touchdowns were a result of this. On the first, Watt swims inside. Whitney Mercilus takes on half of his blocker, and keeps outside leverage momentarily. Then, he seeps inside to close the inside run. Both Benardrick McKinney, and Justin Reid, fill the ‘B’ gap. I’m under the assumption Reid should flow over the top and get wide to make this tackle. He shouldn’t commit so hard to the inside run, and should instead follow the back. Josh Doctson has both hands on Jackson’s chest. It’s an easy score.

On the second one, Clowney crashes inside, Reid gets walled off, and the chase and tackle defenders take poor angles to the ball. It’s an easy score.

For now it hasn’t and doesn’t matter all that much. These cutbacks and cool ranch plays are rare occasions. Holidays. It will matter if Houston gets to play Kansas City, or Pittsburgh, or Los Angeles (C) in the postseason however.

—I enjoyed watching Ty Nsekhe pass block yesterday. He’s super wide. Both him and Moses should be proud of the fact that Clowney and Watt combined for only 2 quarterback hits, and 2 sacks (Mathieu negated another one with a hold on Reed).

—That being said, Clowney and Watt collapsed the pocket all game long. They won around the edge, and looped back to the quarterback, making things complicated for Alex Smith. Some of these victories lead to tosses out bounds, some to dump offs that become first downs, and others to mistakes.

Watt, and this time Mercilus, have wide rushes that should’t create a problem for Smith. But it’s 3rd and 3, the clock inside the folds of his brain is getting itchy, he decides to step up to create. Looking for Kapri Biggs angling inside, he instead finds Brennan Scarlett.

Watt and Clowney indirectly improve Houston’s rush too. By existing they create open rushes for others. Tyrann Mathieu picked up another unobstructed sack. The running back looks to help left tackle Nsekhe instead. The back is supposed to look inside out in blitz protection, because, simply, the rusher with an inside path can get to the quarterback quicker. Mathieu is that person.

Jackson’s leg snapping sack was similar. They paired him up with Watt to generate pressure. Except this time the back was on the opposite side of the formation. He never looks that direction. The guard blocks down, the tackle blocks Watt, it’s a free run for Jackson. Washington is out of field goal position and is stuck punting. The leg seems so sturdy. It’s remarkable how it can flop around.

Other times it’s direct pressure. These Watt/Clowney combo rushes have made the four years of waiting and wishing worth it. Watt goes wide of the chip and accelerates around Moses, taking a perfectly angle to affect McCoy. Clowney rushes from the ‘B’ gap as a stand up rusher and swims over left guard Jonathan Cooper. There is no escape. Abandon all hope. Read this next sentence. Imagine getting hit by Clowney. Now close those eyes.

—Playing with Shareece Wright has its perks I guess. This was an awesome play on the ball by Andre Hal. Having him to defend the deep passing game will be integral against Indianapolis, and future foes who can throw the ball downfield.

—The Reid interception was a combination of great play and miscommunication. Reed broke his route inside. Smith threw it the opposite direction. I love Reid here. He’s in good position. Rather than hang all over Reed, he instead watches Smith and plays the ball. Seeing the throw the whole way, he quickly turned it into 6 after a 102 yard sprint.

—Entering this game Houston was 31st in DVOA when covering tight ends at 50%. They were giving up 65 yards a game, and teams targeted tight ends an average of 7 times a game. In week nine they ensured Jeff Heuerman a new contract. This week Jordan Reed had 7 catches on 11 targets for 71 yards and 1 touchdown.

Reed was able to beat linebackers for catches, beat Jackson for catches, draw a holding penalty, beat Reid for a touchdown catch, and find holes in the zone. It makes sense for Oakland to be 32nd and have a DVOA of 68% this year. Post torn Achilles Derrick Johnson started at the beginning of the year for them. That’s their level of linebacker talent. Houston is too talented at the safety and linebacker positions to get chewed up like this.

—Houston lost Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete in this game. Despite this, and going up against a fearsome interior rush consisting of Matthew Ionadis, Daron Payne, and Jonathan Allen, the interior pass blocking was pretty good this game. Sure, the pocket wasn’t always vibrant, and was wilted at times, yet overall they played well.

—In Kelemete’s place was Martinas Rankin. I miss him. I’m still bummed about what happened to him at left tackle when he should have played right tackle, where I still think he should end up in the future. He played left guard in this one and I didn’t hear much from him. A great thing for those ungulates grazing around the line of scrimmage. I may have to ignore my family on Thursday and watch the All-22 of him. The one thing that did catch my eye was a pull on power. Look at this. He follows through the hole, blocks the correct man, and gets inside placement. Muah!

—Lately the Texans have done a better job blocking the second level. This is the key to doing more than picking up three yards a carry. When you watch Houston play, and Miller picks up 15 yards say, “Look at that second level blocking!” and then you’re teleported into a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial.

Here Kelemete embalms linebacker Mason Foster like a Litch King on a dart play.

Here Davenport catapults the playside Nickle linebacker inside, and Miller cuts back and past Foster.

One day these blocks will be regular plays. One day dreams will become reality. But for now these plays are exceptions to constant second level whiffing.

—Houston allowed a sack to D.J. Swearinger when Watson left the pocket. They allowed another one that will be credited to Juli’en Davenport. It wasn’t his fault though. He had a good pass set and walled off Preston Smith. Greg Mancz and Kendall Lamm were driven back forcing Watson to stumble backwards and into Smith.

The third sack allowed was the result of hideous play design. Ryan Griffin is an abysmal blocker. For whatever reason, the Texans like to pull him from the strongside to the backside to seal the edge. Then play action is run off this to screw with the defense. This time Houston doubles the playfake by giving both the back and the reverse a ghost hand off. Griffin is left to block the great yet unheralded Ryan Kerrigan. One, this is a talent mismatch, two, it’s a tough block, and three Griffin gets way too flat. Kerrigan barely has his path altered before bringing down Watson.

—Against Josh Norman, DeAndre Hopkins was a little quiet. 5 catches for 56 yards and 1 touchdown is a strange stat line to see from him. There were two plays I really loved. Norman switched his backpedal to an open sideways jog at the snap. Cover three. Hopkins broke it off on a post inside to make an easy catch right in front of the safety.

The other was the touchdown. Houston went bunch left. Keke Coutee, Hopkins, and Demaryius Thomas all on one side. Coutee swung to the sideline. Thomas ran the post. Norman, for whatever reason, was yanked inside and ran with Thomas leaving Hopkins wide open. This was a snot rocket of a throw to not allow Norman to recover.

We should see more of these bunch sets as Thomas gets acclimated to Houston.

—Josh Doctson didn’t populate the box score with numerous tally marks of his own. I do think he’s finally starting to get it. Him and Laquon Treadwell have been underwhelming first round wide receivers. Doctson is starting to go up and get it and be a physical side line receiver, and he’s an above average blocker. Without many other options he should continue to get the necessary targets to water him.

—When McCoy came in the only way Washington could move the ball was on the ground. They ran some creative plays to get McCoy free, and he picked his spots well. This kind of worked for a half of football. They’ll need to do more when McCoy stirs the UT truthers this Thursday.

—The decision before the game winning attempt was unreal. 3rd and 10. Rather than set up a shorter field goal. You know one from let’s say 57 yards. McCoy instead heaved it into double coverage and was lucky Reid didn’t make his second interception of the game. This was a great play on the ball.

Out came Hopkins to attempt a 63 yard field goal. I thought he rocked it. It looked like the ball hit the bottom rung. He didn’t. Thanks for the clarification Greg.