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Houston Texans Sack Tracker: Week 17

Yes we’re still a week behind

Houston Texans v Tennessee TItans Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

I frankly enjoy searching for the one photo each game where Deshaun Watson looks to be in the most pain, then making that the lead photo for this article. Not in spite of Watson, dear no. In spite of the millions of dollars, draft picks, and games wasted on this putrid offensive line.

If Deshaun Watson willed us to victory over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday, this offensive line is tugging in the other direction. Watson was sacked seven times against the Bills. In the last game of the season, the one we will be covering in this article, AJ McCarron was sacked four times. Must have been nice watching Watson scramble around and around while McCarron relaxed on the sideline. McCarron definitely realized why Watson is in such great shape... he’s been running for his life for the past three years.

Last week’s Sack Tracker was a doozy as well, but at least it wasn't Watson taking these hits in the game against the Titans.

Sack #41: McCarron Pumps, Johnson Panics

In a meaningless game against the Titans, the Texans’ offensive line started strong and crumbled down the stretch. third and manageable turned into fourth and get-rid-of-it when Texans right tackle Roderick Johnson gets beaten by a swim move.

We could have our own daytime 1980s cartoon show called “Oh Roderick” where every joke is watching Roderick Johnson try to pass block.

The script would read like this:

O’Brien enters sideline right:“Oh Roderick you silly fool! That’s not how you pass block!”

Insert fake live studio audience laugh

Roderick, stumbling over himself: “arg! those wily linebackers got me again!”

McCarron properly options out of his throw over the middle as a linebacker drops directly into the passing lane. This extends the necessary time in the pocket, which McCarron should know doesn’t bode well behind this offensive line.

A lack of balance is all it takes to ruin this play. In this instance Johnson has stopped Derick Roberson’s initial pass rush, but in the blink of an eye loses his positioning. As Roberson begins to rotate, its in Johnson’s best interest to retreat back into the pocket. This would have allowed him to cut off Roberson’s path to McCarron as well as reorient himself as the outside edge of the pocket.

Sack #42: Jordan Thomas Gets Rodeo’d

Welcome back Jordan Thomas. A little rust on those tires I see?

It’s second and 6, the Texans are down by a touchdown, and McCarron is beginning to execute a five-minute drill heading into halftime. Steadily matriculating the ball down the field is the name of the game in this semi-time sensitive part of the game, so getting into third and longs are less than advantageous here.

The offensive line shifts to the left to sell the play action. This leaves Thomas out on an island against Kamalei Correa. He’s a rotational linebacker who causes a team fits every now and then. He is the Brennan Scarlett of the Tennessee Titans positionally, physically, and strategically.

WAIT. Re-roll the tape. This is not 100% Jordan Thomas’ fault. Jordan Akins comes back across the formation to seal off the weak side of the line. Except the one person he has to block he completely disregards. This is apalling. It’s one of those plays where they saw on film when they got back and absolutely torched both tight ends for.

This play makes me madder than a rattlesnake in an ant farm. We give the offensive line a ton of hell for their poor play, but you can’t watch this and see a larger problem at work. This is Mike Devlin’s fault.

I wish I had a separate tracker for the amount of poor technique issues and blamed them on Devlin, because that’d be quite a list. Maybe after the season I’ll put something together.

Sack #43 Scharping get Shed like Dog Hair

Someday the venerable Matt Weston and I will sit down together and draft up an apology letter to Max Scharping on account of the wonderful season he had. Neither of us had much hope for him (or Tytus Howard for a matter of fact), but before this play has not received full credit for a sack yet.

Offensive lineman are told to work inside-out. Start from the defender’s shoulder closest to the center and maintain leverage to develop a pocket. The golden rule here is to not allow a straight line path to the QB. #74 Scharping at left guard relinquishes inside leverage upon making contact with the defender.

Equally importantly here is Scharping’s hand placement. Specifically his left hand.

As you watch the film above, notice how his hand twirls to the outside shoulder of the defender. This gives Titans lineman Jurrell Casey access to Scharping’s body and control of the block. Have you ever picked up a child before? It’s the same hand placement. Only this time its not a baby but a fully grown offensive lineman.

Casey’s ‘grip and rip’ technique here is perfectly executed once he has his hands inside Scharping’s shoulder pads. Scharping’s footing is not bad at all, but his lack of hand placement cost the Texans a sack here.

Sack #44 Titans Bring the Heat. McCarron gets Scotched.

This is what Cover Zero looks like at its best. Linebackers pressing the line of scrimmage bail into the middle of the field. Weak-side pressure with a direct path to the QB. Multiple lineman blocking the same players in confusion. Interior of the line collapsing.

Texans were out schemed and the lack of experience on the field exacerbates the inability to cope under pressure. There’s about five things wrong with this blocking and assignments.

  1. McCarron needs to recognize the personnel in front of him. The most likely pass rushers are all on the left side of the line while the right side of the line is filled with linebackers and a safety.
  2. Nick Martin misses his block and relies on Zach Fulton to help
  3. Laremy Tunsil allows his defender to get into the backfield. This does not allow McCarron to step into the pocket.
  4. Buddy Howell whiffs and flops to the ground
  5. McCarron needs to call for a hot route on this play for either Howell or Jordan Akins

What stands out is McCarron’s failure to save himself and coordinate the players around him to succeed and Tunsil’s poor block of Derick Roberson. The other issues are more circumstantial.

There you have it. That’s every sack from the 2019 Houston Texans Regular Season. Of course, we’ll cover the Texans game against the Bills and the upcoming game against the Chiefs. Couple of quick thoughts:

Both rookie lineman finish the regular season with 2.5 sacks. Both Jordans finish with one sack. The two Pro Bowlers accounted for over 30% of the sacks. Greg Mancz accumulated all three of his sacks in one game. Tight ends struggles may be under represented here. The sack Keke Coutee was partially responsible for has put him in O’Brien’s dog house for the entire year. And lastly, the tackles account for over 36% of all sacks.

Here’s the updated Sack Tracker:

Deshaun Watson: 7.5

Laremy Tunsil: 6.5

Roderick Johnson: 4.5

Chris Clark: 3

Zach Fulton: 3

Greg Mancz: 3

Tytus Howard: 2.5

Max Scharping: 2.5

Darren Fells: 2.5

Seantrel Henderson: 2

Nick Martin: 2

Senio Kelemete: 1

Carlos Hyde: 1

Jordan Thomas: 1

Jordan Akins: 1

Keke Coutee: 0.5

A.J. McCarron: 0.5