Analysis: Watson Won't Blame Texans O-Line
Anthony R Wood
Entering the 2020 NFL season, the Houston Texans had good reason to feel optimistic about the state of their offensive line for the first time in a few years. Two weeks, eight sacks and 27 pressures later and ... suddenly that optimism could make one feel foolhardy.
But the Texans aren't panicking just yet, nor are they willing to impart blame on the line just yet.
"Look, I think we’ve done some decent things," said head coach Bill O'Brien, the overseer of the 0-2 Texans. "Again, people look at quarterback pressures and things like that, quarterback hits. But a lot of that is not just the line. Everybody’s involved in it.
"I think that they’ll get better and better each week and they need to," O'Brien added.
From the outside looking in, it appears as if these thoughts are mirrored by the very man these linemen are tasked to protect, quarterback Deshaun Watson.
"We’re just building chemistry," said the Pro Bowl QB. "Some of that stuff is myself. Protect myself and get rid of the ball a little faster. Some of the stuff is the play call and sometimes I put myself in the run game to get hit and things like that."
And, to be fair, Watson is absolutely right. The line is not the sole issue here. Going back to last week's game tape against the Baltimore Ravens, and the issues are multiple if we focus on the sacks.
Granted, Watson's first sack looks down to a blown block by right tackle Tytus Howard.
His second, however, should be put down to indecision by Watson. The B-gap gives him a clear run lane but the former Clemson Tiger simply waits too long.
The third comes down to both the play design not covering safety DeShon Elliott on the outside, and Watson not assigning a blocker prior to the snap.
And finally, the fourth is down to both left guard Max Scharping and running back David Johnson missing the incoming safety Chuck Clark, followed by both Howard and right guard Zach Fulton getting bulldozed by rushers.
Thrown In At The Deep End
Going up against the Ravens and the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs was always going to be a tough start to the year. Follow those by this week's foe, the Pittsburgh Steelers and their brutal defense, and this season so far has been somewhat of a baptism by fire for this offense.
Throw in the number of new weapons on this offense, a first-year play-caller, and a right tackle that is fresh from a rookie season ended prematurely by injury, and expectations were arguably too high early on.
In fact, according to ESPN, Texans center Nick Martin has the sixth-highest pass-blocking win rate in the NFL so far this year at 98%. Meanwhile, Howard has the second-highest run-blocking win rate in the league among offensive tackles at 89%.
This offense as a whole needs more time to develop and gel. There will be frustrating and disappointing plays, but perhaps this is simply part of the process.
"We’re just coming along and that’s just part of the game," Watson said. "I’m expected to take some shots because that’s the game of football and the way I play the game. It’s not a big issue for me."
By the sounds of things, Watson isn't concerned about their struggles in protection just yet.
Saying that, though, 14 more games with this many sacks and his opinions may waiver some come season's end.