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The Film Room: Houston Texans Sack Tracker (Week 7)

Ain’t no lie baby bye-bye-bye.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

A week off for the bye week gives us a chance for...perspective. Something a lot of people have found during the pandemic, perspective offers us a chance to view the larger picture under a new light. It can be a refreshing understanding of where we stand and where we have to go. For the Texans, it gives us a change to take a breath and truly evaluate where the franchise is halfway through the season.

Yeah, it doesn’t look so good from up all. Can we go back now?

Sure, gentle reader. Let’s return to our regular programming, where we observe and analyze a handful of sacks that take place every week. It’s familiar, comforting, and wholeheartedly Texan way to dwell on the past exploits of our mediocre offense.

Before the bye, the Texans played the injured but talented Packers in a last-ditch effort to save the 2020 season. You wouldn’t have known it by the quality of play. The Texans’ offense was in rinse-and-repeat mode by not showing anything unique or different. Offensive line wise, there was zero push in the run game. David Johnson only had 42 yards on 14 carries. His lack of effective running limited the play action pass game; when that happens the entire offensive system falls apart. That was evident when the Texans were down 21-0 through the entire first half.

In the last Sack Tracker, the Texans allowed only two sacks to the tough Titans defensive line. As Max Scharping deals with COVID-19, Senio Kelemete’s place among the starters becomes more and more secure. Kelemete has played well in the pass game but has added little to nothing in the run game. He isn’t an overwhelming presence on the line, but he has stepped in better than expected in 2020. He’s the only positive storyline through seven games.

Sack 1 (20): Play Action With No Play

They mention it on the broadcast, but the Texans’ inability to run the ball makes the play action game ineffective. The Packers’ linebackers are playing conservative and deep, which means that they believe they can prioritize the pass while still stomping the run. They don’t even need to bring a blitz to get to Watson as four Packers get past the Texans’ six-man protection.

On second and long, the Packers aren’t phased by the Texans’ run scheme. The defensive line gives zero respect to it. They’re facing an attempt at a zone scheme but completely disregard their gap responsibilities to rush the passer.

Looking at the All-22 film, the Texans are running a deep post and dig route combination to challenge the Packers’ single safety look. This makes sense from an offensive perspective. The post route should draw the safety up the field while the dig route become open underneath.

However, because the play action was so miserable, the Packers’ corner drops back into the throwing lane of both the post and dig. I doubt Watson saw this happen, as he had immediate pressure up the middle.

Last year, the issue was pressure off the edge and players coming through free. This year it is internal pressure caused by more condensed pockets. Condensed pockets are when the edge rushers work to provide consistent pressure without over-committing. Though this may limit the number of overall sacks the defense gets, it doesn’t allow Watson to scramble out of the pocket. Eventually, the defense will get there once or twice, as they do here.

If you are thinking “WHAT THE [KITTEN] IS NICK MARTIN DOING?”, don’t be alarmed. This is a part of the play action game under Tim Kelly. I’ve yet to identify the terminology used to name this backwards-pulling-center-play-action-zone, but for now let’s call it “The Turnpike.” The goal of the Turnpike is to fully sell the zone run so linebackers commit to the run while still providing protection on the backside of the zone. Very often the OLB away from the run play will sprint into the backfield to destroy the play action. This responds to that threat and smooths out the backside of the pocket.

All that is dandy, but it opens the center of the line to be single-handedly dominated. Packers defensive lineman Kingsley Keke (much better than our Keke) disconnects from Senio Kelemete and screams straight towards Watson. Kelemete does a great job of reaching Keke off the snap. Once he gets to him, his notorious short arms don’t latch on to Keke and ultimately don’t allow him to control the pass rusher.

Darren Fells has gotten away with a ton of terrible blocking this year, and it’s not going to go unnoticed. Fortunately, it will not go unpunished. Even though Tytus Howard does a miserable job of stopping Za’Darius Smith, Howard at least got his hands on Smith for a time. Fells whiffed and then stood there. That’s a pair of mistakes that will give you a golden ticket to being featured on the Sack Tracker.

Half of the sack goes to Kelemete and the other goes to Fells.

Sack 2 (21): Screen Sack

Screen plays are fun. They have become popular on long down and distances such as this one. It’s a joy to watch several men pushing 300 pounds begrudgingly run while a guy who can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds jogs behind them. What’s not fun is when no one does their job. On 2nd and 20, following a Nick Martin hold and an incomplete pass, the Texans draw up a RB screen to Duke Johnson.

Another four-man rush gets to Watson. This is an utter breakdown in continuity of the play. This is one of those scenarios where the play Houston drew up and the play that occurred are not one in the same.

The Texans actually have blockers out in front if this play was to develop properly. I don't know who Tytus Howard is pointing to, but I suggest instead of pointing to the wide receivers he uses his hands to block somebody.

This play breakdown is centered around Laremy Tunsil. The expensive left tackle gets crossed over by a swim move. Preston Smith is one of the more reliable players on the Green Bay defense, but in no way is he having the year he did last season; he only has half a sack this season compared to the 12 he did last year. Even so, this swim move stuns Tunsil, who does a terrible job of moving his feet. Watch Tunsil’s feet take short, choppy steps and then go completely still at the moment of impact. There’s no potential energy in his legs; it’s motionless.

Beyond the blocking errors, Tunsil gets in the way of David Johnson. Since his feet stopped moving, David is running into a static object. Without moving his feet more than two steps, Tunsil ruins the entire play.

I’m still upset at Howard for not finishing the play, but Tunsil is the beginning, middle, and end of this sack. This is surprisingly only Tunsil’s first complete sack of the season. This time last year, he had 2.5 sacks.

Sack #3 (22): DEVASTATION

This one hurts. 3rd and 3 inside the Packers’ 10 yard line and this sack is about as inconvenient of a sack as possible. Yes, the Texans do score on a field goal, but they shot themselves in the foot in terms of getting back into this game.

We criticize Watson a lot about not shifting the blocking correctly to cover every player, but this time Dw4 does a good job of communicating pre-snap. He calls out the potential pass rushers and gets the offensive line set up properly.

The Packers are showing max-blitz, and they bring the full house. I’m a fan of blitzing against single back sets; it forces the running back to stay in the pocket rather than slip out for a quick release option. With so many players sprinting towards Watson, there’s no time for a running back to act as a dump-off option.

Look at little Duke Johnson laying a high quality block. We here at the Sack Tracker commend his blocking technique. Johnson does a good job of working his way down the line of scrimmage instead of flying over to the other side. This allows him to work with the offensive line to form the edge of the pocket instead of being disjointed with the structure of the pocket.

First, Howard gets away with a slight false start, but outside of that, his form is flawless and his hands are showing real improvement. He keeps them active, close together, and in coordination with his feet. Martin gets twisted up really quick off the snap but does a good job of adjusting his hips and applying pressure to his man. Good for them. Now let’s get into what went wrong.

You remember in elementary school when you have play dates and the other person won’t play by your rules? That’s what happened when Pharaoh Brown tries to stop safety Adrian Amos. Brown’s pass blocking is way too passive. His feet stop at the point of attack, his head is leaning too far forward, and his hands are improperly placed. When you have arms this long, you can usually get away with below average hand placement. However, when the blocker is dealing with a safety, the safety’s speed nullifies any length advantage.

Fells and Brown take the cake with 1.5 sacks today on another critical sack.

Updated Sack Tracker:

Deshaun Watson: 6

Zack Fulton: 3

Tytus Howard: 2.5

Darren Fells: 1.5

Max Scharping: 2

Nick Martin: 1.5

Laremy Tunsil: 1.5

Pharaoh Brown: 1


Senio Kelemete: 1

Brandin Cooks: 0.5

David Johnson: 0.5