On the eve of the NFL Playoffs, what better time to calm the nerves than looking back at some ugly sacks? Barring a miracle, there’ll certainly be another Sack Tracker (or multiple) for the postseason.
Due to holiday travels, the five sacks accumulated against the Bucs will be today’s point of emphasis as we’re a little behind on churning these out. Houston’s offensive line has undertaken quite an upheaval over the last 24 months. The Texans lost Seantrel Henderson and rookie Tytus Howard to injury. Laremy Tunsil jumped in and took over the left tackle position and should hold down the position for years to come after he signs a contract extension this offseason.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into Week 16 with the NFL’s sack leader in Shaquil Barrett. Though Houston shut him down, it was the supporting cast that caused the Texans’ offense the most pain.
Sack #38: Roderick Johnson Gets Gored by Bull Rush
Jason Pierre-Paul certainly reminded the Texans that he’s still in the league. He had a field day going against Roderick Johnson to the point where the Texans had to swap back in Chris Clark. The Texans were in cruise control midway through the second quarter when the offensive line began to show cracks.
The Texans leave the lineman on an island against a four-man pass rush. With solely mid-range pass routes, Deshaun Watson has to let the routes develop to make the right decision. By the time DeAndre Carter gets open over the middle, the pocket collapses and Watson is dragged down.
JPP is in a wide-9 technique as he maintains outside positioning on the right side of the line. This gives him two more steps to gain speed and power in a direct sprint to the QB. The goalpost partially blocks the view, but JPP does an excellent job pairing his hands with his feet here. His hands get inside of tackle Roderick Johnson and his feet drive through the contact to force Johnson back. Johnson’s failure to set his feet to regain leverage here is a major disappointment. His technique is perfect up until he makes contact with the defender. That’s the difference between looking good in practice and a game; everything changes when it’s full speed. Specifically, Johnson has to anchor better through his left foot to arch JPP’s back and force him to the outside allowing Watson to step into the pocket. Instead of stepping into a sack. Johnson is a much better run blocker than pass blocker.
Non-Sack: Watson Scrambles and Fumbles
Somehow this is considered a sack. Watson scrambles to the right avoiding a nickel blitz off the edge but is stripped by Sean Murphy-Bunting for a seven-yard loss. In the past, I have not counted sacks that were circumstantial like this one. Since I was a good boy and Santa gave me everything I asked for, I won’t count this sack against the team. Here’s the play for you.
Sack #39: Not Great Technique by Laremy Tunsil
Houston is in an empty-set with Duke Johnson split out wide. Watching this play develop, this is not the best route combination ever run on an NFL field. Too many routes where one defender can occupy two pass catchers in coverage. This play does not develop sequentially where Watson can have different players open as he progresses through the routes.
I do not know how Laremy Tunsil is considered a Pro Bowl left tackle with plays like this. This is elementary pass protection breaking down here.
The defender intelligently knows that he can dip inside and forgo maintaining outside leverage because there is a safety in the middle of the field who is spying on Watson. A simple juke move with a strong rip through Tunsil’s left shoulder gets it done.
Tunsil overextends to the left to lengthen the defender’s distance to the QB. Many tackles struggle with “reaching” the defender, but in this instance Tunsil puts too much focus on this task. This is unacceptable for a starter like Tunsil. After he is beaten inside, Tunsil, to his credit, does a good job of flushing JPP out of the way. But for a reason I have yet to understand, he then seemingly watches JPP run around him. He’s out of place in the pocket with no idea where Watson is, but the incompetence to not finish the play renders all his effort useless. Top five least-technically sound sack the Texans have given up this season.
Non-Sack: Watson Rolls Out and Forced Out
Here’s another one that was recorded as a sack, but by no fault of the offensive line or Watson, this play breaks down and results in no gain. The Tampa Bay defense does not bite on the poor attempt at a play action. They rotate into coverage well and bracket all of the receivers flowing to the left side of the field.
This is actually a smart decision by Watson. In a tied ballgame in the fourth quarter, Watson decides to live another day and rolls out of bounds. Rather than risking a throw into traffic, he steps out and avoids any game-changing mistakes.
Sack #40: Internal Pressure Forces Quick Sack
First play of the series, and the Bucs bring the heat. The Tampa Bay defensive line attacks the right hand gaps of each offensive lineman. This creates an angle for them to pressure the QB away from the majority of the Texans’ blocking. Because of this, the Texans overload themselves compared to where Tampa is sending pressure.
Even with max protection, the Texans’ individual blocks fail to seal off a surging Tampa Bay defense from getting to Watson. Vita Vea at nose guard powerfully reaches the A-gap and bends around center Nick Martin. Imagine doing a basketball crossover out of a four-point stance. That’s basically the move Vea puts on Martin. Martin does a good job of not crossing his feet to regain leverage and instead continues to shuffle with short dynamic steps. Though he gets bested on the play, this is a lot better than in seasons past where he’d be brushed by on a similar move.
Darren Fells was brought onto this team to block. Turns out he’s caught seven TDs this year...and is struggling to block. On this play, he is the first tight end to the right and is in charge of blocking JPP.
Nick Martin gets partial credit for the sack as his poor block on Vita Vea pushes Watson to the right and into the oncoming rushers. Darren Fells takes the other half for being manhandled by Jason Pierre-Paul for his third sack of the day.
One more game to record, and we’ve officially eclipsed 40 sacks. Johnson’s sack surrendered moved him up four spots to now be the third most allowed this season. Tunsil keeps racking the sacks up, but Watson had a clean game in terms of sacks (not in terms of interceptions)
Here’s the updated Sack Tracker:
Deshaun Watson: 7.5
Laremy Tunsil: 6
Roderick Johnson: 3.5
Chris Clark: 3
Zach Fulton: 3
Greg Mancz: 3
Tytus Howard: 2.5
Darren Fells: 2.5
Seantrel Henderson: 2
Nick Martin: 2
Max Scharping: 1.5
Senio Kelemete: 1
Carlos Hyde: 1
Keke Coutee: 0.5
Jordan Thomas: 0.5
Jordan Akins: 0.5