The Houston Texans offense has benefited from terrific field position all season but they can still challenge the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles without that advantage. The connection between Deshaun Watson and DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins is a dangerous one and will force Jim Schwartz to pour resources into stopping it.
The problem for Texans in consistently finding time for those hook ups. Their offensive line ranks tied for 29th in Pro Football Focus’ pass blocking efficiency metric and there isn’t a dependable piece on the entire unit. The Texans have countered by introducing more play-action, especially in the last three weeks. This allows them to provide Watson with 7 and 8-man protections while Hopkins works to the soft spot created between second and third level defenders.
One staple of the @HoustonTexans pass game is max-protection play action, where @deshaunwatson does an outstanding job making second-window throws to @DeAndreHopkins.@GregCosell breaks down this @Texans pass concept against Cover 3!#HOUvsPHI #FlyEaglesFly #Texans pic.twitter.com/BtPLoX8ayT— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) December 21, 2018
It’s of note that Schwartz was able to be effective against the Los Angeles Rams in taking away what they wanted to do in their play-action game. The Eagles’ defense allowed a QB Rating of 82.9 against the Rams with a significant drop in their normal output. Part of that formula was getting linebackers into their drops quicker to limit the gap between zones and take away intermediate throws.
Dialing back to Hopkins, he does most of his damage outside of the numbers on the left side of the formation. That’s where Rasul Douglas calls home now. It’s a tough matchup for Douglas, but one for Schwartz as well, who will have to ensure he gives Douglas help without sacrificing the integrity of the rest of his defense. Hopkins being questionable with an ankle injury suffered last week could prove huge.
In the running game, Lamar Miller was limited all week with an ankle sprain that kept him out of last weeks second half. It looks like he’ll give it a go (UPDATE: He won’t, he’s OUT) but if he’s hampered it’s a blow to the Texans offense. Behind him, Alfred Blue is averaging 3.3 yards per carry on the year. The Texans offensive line problems don’t end in pass protection either, so it could be a big day for the Eagles’ front four.
Boy oh boy this Houston OL is certified booty cheeks.. Kendall Lamm might be the worst run blocking RT I've studied this year - pic.twitter.com/Gqj4pTIdXG— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) December 21, 2018
The Texans have needed the leagues’ most advantageous starting field position for their touchdown drives (own 41). Stopping them is not just on the defense, but on the offense not turning the ball over and on the special teams not allowing chunk gains on returns.
We detail all this and more, plus we give our final predictions on The Kist & Solak Show #57! Stream it on the media player below or click here if the player doesn’t load. As always five-star reviews (we’re close to 600!) and written reviews on Apple Podcasts are much appreciated. FLY EAGLES FLY!