There certainly was a sense of fear heading into Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars about the Texans ability to properly protect Deshaun Watson when word got out that Laremy Tunsil wouldn’t be suiting up. Through eight games, the Jags were fourth in the NFL in sacks and boasted four players with four or more sacks. In the Week 2 match-up against the Jags, the Texans’ offensive line allowed four sacks en route to a one point victory. From the looks of things, this was going to be a tough day for Watson and an agonizing day for all Texans fans.
In what seemed like the 300th iteration of a starting offensive line, the Texans trotted out Chris Clark, Max Scharping, Nick Martin, Zach Fulton, and Tytus Howard. Not the sweetest cup of English tea the Texans have ever sipped on. Clark and Roderick Johnson subbed in and out at left tackle throughout the game, which begs the question: What were the Texans thinking?
If they haven't learned their lesson from last season, Clark is a liability at left tackle. The fact that Howard didn't shift to left tackle and Johnson come in at right during this game is absurd. Johnson is a stronger right tackle than anything else in my opinion.
The big story from this starting group was getting Howard back, and that was crucial from a pass blocking standpoint. Give the rookie credit; he’s played his tail off so far this season. When healthy, he has the look and feel of a guy who can succeed in this league. For a dude who is 6’5” and weighs 320 pounds, Howard’s got some smooth feet.
Praise for the rookie aside, here’s to another round of doling out blame for the boys up front. This week will only feature one sack, which I don't think anyone in this fan base will complain about. Of course, Watson’s magic certainly saved about three to four plays from resulting in a sack. DW4 almost gave his OL another sackless week as he evaded one tackler before being brought down by a swarm of Jaguars pass rushers.
Add this one to a running tally of sacks on 3rd and long. It ended a strong Texans opening drive after halftime that resulted in a field goal. The route combination the Texans are running here is a zone beater, which means that the receivers need time to find the holes in the Jags’ zone. As the pocket around Watson turns into a whirlpool, he is flushed out and finally wrapped up by Calais Campbell.
My first reaction is to blame the tackles who forced Watson to step up in the pocket, but after weeks of reviewing sacks, we should all know that that is not the full story.
I actually don’t mind this block by Tytus Howard as he maintains contact with DE Josh Allen the entire play and has the footwork to properly reset when Allen slows down after overrunning Watson’s position. Speaking of, Allen is the next Von Miller. Mark my words.
This view shows that Howard never truly lost control of the block. We therefore exonerate Howard from blame for this sack. Our attention must turn to left tackle Roderick Johnson. The free ride that Yannick Ngakoue gets is the true initial reason for Watson to step in and then out of the pocket. Johnson’s second step out of the break is too slow; he does not create enough depth to disrupt Ngakoue’s sprint to the quarterback. From his stance alone, Johnson has zero power or leverage to adjust to the pass rush in any way that would stop Ngakoue from flying by him.
Zach Fulton also cannot go unpunished here. Partially because it’s not 100% Johnson’s fault for allowing the sack, and partially because Fulton gets dominated on this pass rush. Jaguars DT Taven Bryan manhandled Fulton here and drove him five yards into the backfield. Bryan is in full control and shoved Fulton to the side when Watson was within reach. It doesn’t help that Fulton is technically on an island on this play, but ultimately Watson would have escaped this play if Fulton had a better block on his man.
The “Sack-rificial Lamm” for most sacks surrendered still belongs to the one-and-only Greg Mancz. A four-way tie for second place makes this next game against the Ravens (after a week off) interesting to see if anyone can finally pass Mancz. The season tally for the Sack Tracker thus far:
Greg Mancz: 3
Laremy Tunsil: 2.5
Deshaun Watson: 2.5
Roderick Johnson: 2.5
Zach Fulton: 2.5
Darren Fells: 2
Chris Clark: 2
Tytus Howard: 1
Carlos Hyde: 1
Max Scharping: 0.5
Nick Martin: 0.5