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Apollo Stallion

Texans O Line Analysis & Solutions

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I don't often re-post Battle Red Blog stuff, but even I have fallen into the "just throw money at Trent Brown and Ja'Waun James" camp when last year I was against throwing money at Solder and Norwell (which seems to have been right).  Am I losing my contrarian nature or am I just getting friggin impatient and skipping important steps in analyzing what is really holding back this offense?  What I am losing patience for is doing my own detailed analysis as it feels like a broken record with the o-line and secondary, so I'm thankful Matt Weston did an incredible detailed analysis of each of the 65 sacks we gave up this season which is the first step to identifying how to make sure it doesn't happen yet again next year.   I'll just post it here and add my thoughts below and hopefully we can come up with some answers that go a bit deeper than looking at the top of FA and draft charts at T and assuming that will get us where we need to be (even if ultimately we feel that is the solution).

https://www.battleredblog.com/2019/2/25/18239158/houston-texans-sacks-allowed-in-2018

 

 

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Hopefully you took the time to actually read the post as there is lots of meat in there that I'm not going to regurgitate his analysis, but rather offer my conclusions which he doesn't:

  • Not one mention of Devlin in the piece, but good god almighty how has this guy not learned that o-lineman are not interchangeable parts that can be flipped from side to side or guard/tackle often without them even having practiced the damn position in camp or preseason. 
    • I won't go through the whole history, but I never understood why XSF was on the left side despite his obvious pass protection blind spots, Jeff Allen was clearly out of sorts on the right and never got comfortable, Davenport was a fish out of water on the right which tanked 1/3 of a season, Mancz is a good center/crappy guard, Martin can't hike shotgun without skipping it off the turf, our best pass protector, Fulton belonged on the left to help Davenport, Rankin has no business at tackle in the the NFL, and our RT Lamm can't run block in a run-first offense. 
    • Sure, being able to play anywhere on the line is a nice trait for o-lineman to have, but you have to be able to recognize that this is not a skill every players has, just like certain cornerbacks are great in zone or in the slot, but should never be asked to cover man to man outside or certain running backs need to be out in space, not between the tackles.  Hmm, maybe a certain Head Coach doesn't understand how to adapt his system aka "scheming" around the strengths of the talent vs. stubbornly ramming square parts into round holes and when it doesn't work saying he needs to coach better - aka hammer the square peg harder.     
  • Blaming the tackles is overly simplistic.  It's an offense and scheme issue, not just poor pass blocking.  Watson HAS to get better pre snap or we need a center like Myers who can help making adjustments out of the huddle.  We need a quick/hot route every passing down and a healthy reliable player to execute it.  Watson needs to cut down on the hero ball stuff, but that also means options beside Nuk or himself making something out of nothing.  
  • Obviously the first impressions on Davenport were ugly, but after nursing him along on the bench in a wasted 2017 season they completely threw him to the wolves asking him to adapt to a position he never played 1 week into the season after the Henderson injury. Look at PFF stats all you want, but after moving back to LT he only gave up 6 sacks in 12 games.  I don't see him turning into a Pro Bowler or anything, but I think he can be a serviceable LT in this league with more development and if you look around the days of the lock down blind-side protector being the 2nd most important part of an offense are gone.  Personally, I think a run blocking RT is our #1 draft/FA priority and would be perfectly fine if a run blocking RG is our 1st rounder if the board plays out that way.  Henderson is gravy if he's healthy, but he's just a lottery ticket that never should have been counted on when Kendall Lamm is your #3 (yes, he pleasantly surprised, but is NOT a starter)
  • Ditto Rankin, who got destroyed at LT with 8 sacks on relatively few snaps, but he was decent when playing where he belongs at LG. He may have come into the league more "pro-ready" than Davenport, but he had no camp or much pre-season and barely got any reps at guard where he belongs.
Edited by Apollo Stallion

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Offensive components not getting enough attention...

  • Guard play - we seem to be the only team in the NFL that hasn't figured out that this position matters.  Um, Quenton Nelson literally changed the entire fortune of the Colts franchise.  We can't keep throwing other teams rotational depth guys out there and thinking that will work.  Kelemete is just bad (watch the clip of him giving up a sack in 1.3 seconds - 7 sacks in essentially 12 games makes you better than XSF, but not good enough to start.  Fulton is a nice depth piece to have around because he has a high floor, but he is useless as a run blocker which will always limit the ceiling (the inside run game came alive when he went down). 
  • WRs - This is part depth / part scheme.  O'Brien still doesn't understand the hot route or having an option that is schemed open in critical situations.  On 49 of the sacks, nobody was open!   I love this line he used -  "Pass protection is more than an offensive line. It’s an ecosystem working together to keep the quarterback clean."  We were definitely clicking mid season until Will Fuller went down and the glimpses of Coutee showed what the slot can bring, but they combined for 13 games and have body types that simply aren't built for durability.  Hopkins was targeted 163 times / next highest was 45 - if we ever want to advance beyond Wild Cards rounds, we have to have other threats still standing in Dec/Jan and not starting Deandre Carter or Vyncynt Smith.  
  • TE - He doesn't get into this much in the analysis, but TE's are rarely going to be solely responsible for sacks as they primarily chip and then get into routes.  Fido's blocking was poor for a guy his size, but it was improving and his above average hands made him average out at an average NFL TE with Kyle Rudolph-ish upside.  Griffin may have started the season slightly better blocker than Atkins or Thomas (or Anderson in '17), but those guys can actually get open for more than dumpoffs and are at least a threat to make somebody miss to pick up a 1st down.  Even a pure blocking TE is going to catch a dumpoff and ramble a few yards (see Steelers TEs), so what the hell does Griffin being more "well-rounded" bring to the table other than slightly shorter punting position?  Atkins and Thomas are worth developing as move TE's, but unless we are going to spend a 1st or 2nd rounder to grab a TE that will be a primary threat opposite Nuk like Gronk, Ertz, Kelce, Kittle, use a blocking oriented TE like Jax did with Marcedes Lewis or Ravens with guys like Ed Dickson and at least get the benefit of the run blocking and actual 3rd down pass protection. 
  • Oh hey, Lamar Miller caught nearly 50 passes for 400 yards his last year Mia - maybe have the 200lb dude with great open field moves be your dumpoff option rather than having him try to slow down free runners while your slow as molasses 260 lb starting TE accumulates 300 touchdownless yards with only 3 catches past the 50 yard line.  Hell, remember how the o-line looked almost competent in the pre-season when Pope was in there as a traditional 3rd down back?  Ecosystem...
Edited by Apollo Stallion

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