Last week was rough. A quality first half was mired in a dismal second half. The Raiders came alive in both the running and passing game. Particularly, their ability to move the ball in the air over the middle crushed the defense. That shouldn’t be the case in a Tampa-Two front, one that Lovie brought to fame in Tampa Bay when he was the defensive coordinator.
The poor defensive performance plus Smith’s adamance to run the system bring us to our Groupthink this week:
Lovie Smith’s defense fell a part this past week. They had two weeks to prepare. Do you think Lovie’s defensive strategy is out dated?
I’d say yes and no. I think creative coaches can scheme lesser talent into victory. Still, there’s no denying the lesser talent. Essentially every game has gone the same way. We’ve been ahead or close through quarters virtually every week. I think that’s the design. From there you hope the opponent makes more mistakes than you. Jacksonville did that and it worked. Everyone else either beat us or caught up.
Honestly, I thought his strategy was pretty much outdated from jump street. But then again, Lovie Smith was not really hired for his Tampa-2 defense, was he? The reason Lovie Smith is here is because the Texans (read: Easterby at the time) could not hire Josh McCown to be their head coach without heaping even more scandal onto the scandal they’d just pulled fresh from the oven, or worse: expose the team to further legal action.
As to his Tampa-2, it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. The difference is the Texans are exceptionally bad at stopping the run, which is negating whatever advantage his ballhawking defense brings to the table.
Lovie Smith is not here to be the Houston Texans head coach, at least not primarily. He is here because we had (and might still have, the jury’s still out, depending on Caserio’s next hire) the Seven Banana Brothers making head coaching decisions.
He won’t be here long. Not because he’s a bad head coach, just because he was never supposed to be head coach.
The defensive scheme is ridiculous, but the quality of linebacker play is the crux. Christian Kirksey is not a modern LB. Kamu Grugier-Hill can’t cover the pass. It’s a dismal combination and the team desperately needs rookie Christian Harris to make an appearance to right this ship. You’d hope they don’t have to address this position in the draft, but it’s looking all too likely they’ll have to over draft for a less-valuable position at LB.
The system is as good as the players and the players are as good as the system. The deck is stacked against both sides of this equation. I’ve long wanted to see this team actually run a Tampa-Two, but that was when Dylan Cole was our LB of the future. My confidence level couldn’t be lower than it is with the current system.
The bye week didn’t solve the biggest issue with the Texans’ defense: Stopping the run. While the league is primarily a passing league, and the emphasis of many defenses is to stop the pass, you still have to be able to limit the run. Teams will try to do that from time to time. Especially in a division with Jonathan Taylor and Derrick Henry, you might want to place some extra emphasis on stopping the run. The, uh, Texans, have not done that.
A classic weakness with the Tampa 2 is that good TEs and inside receivers can take advantage of the seams in the defense, especially if a team cannot get to the QB with the defensive linemen only. Yet, the Texans are not getting torn apart that way, which was a big fear I had about this team. Why risk the interception or incompletion (channeling classic Darryl Royal here), when you can just run the football? Over, and over, and over, and over again. For a defensive coach, Lovie must be having major heartburn about how his defense is getting sliced and diced by all the running backs (and some of the running QBs). A problem with the Tampa 2? Not necessarily, but whatever Lovie is doing with the scheme and/or the talent, it ain’t working. Giving up the most rushing yards per game, and by a considerable margin, is unequivocal evidence of that. With 3 games against Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor still to go, the prognosis is not good that things will change.
What are the two greatest words in the English language?
De-fault! De-fault! De-fault!
And that’s about how Lovie Smith got to where he is today.
Sure, at one point, Lovie’s Tampa Cover-2 was the toast of the town, but that was two decades ago. Lovie hasn’t seen much success since those halcyon days, and it’s his inability to react and adjust that’s a huge reason why.
There was no reason to think the Texans’ defense was going to be good in 2021, but it didn’t embarrass itself. That’s all regressing toward expectations in 2022.