We march on to an unnecessarily close call against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game where the Texans’ defense was hampered by COVID-related issues. Jacksonville was able to get pressure on Deshaun Watson all day, but rarely were able to get him down. Jacksonville doesn't have the juggernauts up front like they used to. Sacksonville is done, though they do have several young talents they’ve acquired in the NFL Draft.
Offensive line news: Senio Kelemete left the game with a concussion just a couple plays into the afternoon. He’ll likely be out against the Browns, and in the meantime Brent Qvale will step in. You will have to dig deep in the BRB archives to find somewhere where I mentioned my lack of excitement surrounding the signing of Qvale in the offseason. The Texans brought him on in March as a swing tackle/guard. He has started 15 games over five seasons for the New York Jets. From what I saw, he played perfectly fine against the Jags vanilla pass rush.
Sack 1 (23): Crushed, Collapsed, and a Culprit.
Kelemete left the game about three minutes before this sack occurred, so there were bound to be repercussions from the change in offensive line personnel. I rarely, if ever, tell you who caused the sack at the beginning of the breakdown. I won’t do that here either. What I will do is tell you that it is not Nick Martin’s fault. This will come into play later.
The Texans are driving after a first down completion to Randall Cobb. Jacksonville’s defense is struggling to handle all of Houston’s passing options. While they are getting close to Watson, they have yet to put him on the ground.
Jacksonville is running a simple Cover One look with four pass rushers and a quarterback spy. It’s a fairly harmless concept, especially when you have a first round pick and the highest paid offensive lineman in the industry. Alas, this type of thing is why we have a sack tracker in the first place.
From the end zone view, you’ll notice Watson locks onto one receiver for the entire play. He’s waiting for Will Fuller’s out route to develop. He pays too much attention to that and not enough to the impending pass rush that’s materializing.
Let’s look from left to right to properly analyze this quite curious pocket collapse.
First, Tunsil stonewalls Smoot with high quality hand placement and active feet. He maintains a strong center of gravity and uses his long arms to dampen the defensive end’s pass rush. This is textbook.
However, it doesn’t take long to find low-quality blocking. Qvale rodeos his man with practically zero technique. He latches onto Taven Bryan like a leach. This should have been a holding flag, but we aren’t counting poor blocking, only the ones that lead to sacks.
Martin, well, can we continue to hold on Martin? No? Fine. I’ve been convinced. To take a step back, offensive pass blocking is more of a game of Red Rover than it is a set of individual matches. The line is supposed to work as a unit to stop more athletic pass rushers, and to do that, they have to recognize the threat level of opposing players and opt to give necessary attention to a threat or move on and help one of the other linemen out. In Martin’s case, he recognizes that Jacksonville linebacker Joe Schobert is only there to monitor Watson in case he leaves the pocket. As a non-threat, Schubert can be ignored in favor of supporting the new left guard that recently came into the game. Even though Schobert rushes in at the end to finish off Watson, it’s ultimately not Martin’s fault here.
Now, let’s look at Zach Fulton. In the video below, you’ll see Fulton battling his heart out against DaVon Hamilton, a rookie out of Ohio State that I liked in the draft process. Side note—wouldn’t it be nice if we got something out of our rookies?
Fulton does allow Hamilton to shrink the pocket and not allow Watson to step into his throw, but at no point in this block does Fulton lose control. We’re well aware of what a blown block by Fulton looks like. This is not it.
Let’s get to Tytus Howard. I saved this clip above for last, as it illustrates Allen’s ability to push Howard off balance and sweep inside. He uses his speed to force Howard to raise his chest and then his length to extend Howard further back. This separation creates enough space for Allen to dip inside and collapse the pocket. It’s not a perfect pass rush, but it’s quite effective against Howard on this play.
So whose fault is this sack? Obviously Howard gets half, but the other part goes to Watson. As you can see in the last video, Watson stares down the same receiver when he has another one streaking over the middle he can dump the ball down to. I also don’t think Deshaun gets enough depth on his drop back, which seals him in the pocket once it closes in on him.
Sack 2: (24): A Circus Corner Blitz
It’s not as bad as last year, but third down sacks have been an issue this season. With the Texans’ lead reduced to eight points, scoring on this drive would give the Texans significantly more comfort facing a Jags offense that has yet to considerably move the ball down the field. After completing two successful third and short plays on the drive, the Texans are shut down at midfield. On the play before, Watson put on his dancing shoes to evade a direct shot from Dawuane Smoot. In shotgun with two running backs, Watson is set up to have max protection against a Jacksonville defense with its ears pinned back.
Jacksonville did not have a single player with his hand in the ground, which caused confusion in the Texans’ backfield. In the first clip, the offense is painstakingly pointing out all of the potential pass rushers while they move and graze along the line of scrimmage. That confusion and misdirection caused a mistake on the Texans’ side of the ball. Once the ball was snapped, four of the seven men in the box blitzed while a corner sprints off the edge unblocked.
There isn’t even a chance for Watson to get the ball out. He had just sat down in the pocket when the corner blitz came screaming through the line of scrimmage.
This is a pure protection bust. It’s a magnificent blitz concept no doubt, but the protection protocols were in place for this sack to be avoided.
This initially falls under the “coverage sack” category when you watch it from the field view. You see both Duke Johnson and Cullen Gillaspia in the backfield, but Gillaspia falls prey to Josh Allen’s diversionary tactics. Allen works directly upfield, hoping to draw both Tunsil and Gillaspia. He does this to fake Gillaspia into believing he’s overrun Tunsil, when in fact he’s only trying to create a bigger gap for the cornerback to run through.
From a scheme perspective, both Johnson and Gillaspia are told to protect inside-out across the line of scrimmage. This means they are prioritizing any threats from the center of the line out to the tackles. Johnson does this and physically checks across the entire line before working his way to the edge.
If there aren’t any threats, they can then break out into the flats. Gillaspia may have been a tad too excited about this as he bounces to the outside too quickly. Ultimately Gillaspia needs to prioritize blocking more and see the wider field rather than try to help the apparent best tackle in the league block an underperforming former first round pick.
It pains me little to award a sack to an Aggie. As a lifetime Longhorn fan, it’s been far too long since we’ve punished an Aggie. I’m glad I get to continue to time-honored tradition.
Updated Sack Tracker:
Deshaun Watson: 6.5
Zach Fulton: 3
Tytus Howard: 3
Max Scharping: 2
Darren Fells: 1.5
Nick Martin: 1.5
Laremy Tunsil: 1.5
Pharaoh Brown: 1
COVERAGE SACK: 1
Senio Kelemete: 1
Cullen Gillaspia: 1
Brandin Cooks: 0.5
David Johnson: 0.5