The Texans’ pass rush was decent last year. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney were destroyers, a torrential onslaught, world devours from week four on, but the rest of the pass rush was lackluster. Whitney Mercilus played out of position and didn’t get to the quarterback. And the rest can’t rush the passer. Joel Heath, Brandon Dunn, D.J. Reader, and Angelo Blackson who will now make $4 million a year to not get to the quarterback, are rats glued to traps when the quarterback drops back to pass. Despite Watt and Clowney’s great 2018 seasons, the Texans finished 22nd in pressure rate at 29.6%, and had 43 sacks, ranking 13th in adjusted sack rate.
Now that it’s 2019 season preview season, and the Football Outsiders Almanac has been released, Football Outsiders is also releasing other statistics from last year. They recently published more information on pass rushes specifically. You can read about pressure by number of pass rushers here and defense and pass pressure here.
Houston rushed only four pass rushers 60.6% of the time (25th), and created pressure 32.2% (10th). Once again, Watt and Clowney were awesome last year. Houston had a DVOA of 6.7% (12th) when they rushed four. They blitzed five or more 22.4% of the time and had a pressure rate of 42.9% (17th). This seems low for a Romeo Crennel defense. I’ll have to go back and dig through old books and see if this is an aberration. They were 26th in defensive DVOA when blitzing, which also sounds low considering Benardrick McKinney’s ability to blitz, and some Clowny dive bombing sprinkling in, but this is what happens when Shareece Wright is your CB2. The other interesting type of blitz analyzed were defensive back blitzes. Houston blitzed defensive backs 9.8% of all snaps (13th) and had a DVOA of -51.4% (4th). I’d assume this can be attributed directly to Kareem Jackson.
The other article breaks down the Texans’ defense with and without pressure. Houston’s DVOA was -76.3% with pressure (6th), and 40.9% without pressure (19th). The discrepancy of -117.1% was the 6th highest in the league. Once again, the Texans’ secondary was bad last year, and they were picked apart when Watt and Clowney weren’t getting to the quarterback because no one else could.
All in all, the stats back up a lot of what we said around here last year. Yet, the eyes can only see so much. Houston’s defensive back blitzes, front four pressure, and lack of ability to generate pressure when rushing four or more was surprising.