2019 SAXTRAX Part 1: The O-Line

Sacks in Review – An investigation of the Texans 2019 season & the most over publicised stat in the game. 

2019 – SAXTRAX

SAXTRAX – attributes the sack based on the origin of the plays disruption rather than the final tackle to give a more accurate understanding of where the offensive flaws exist.

Click below for a full explanation on tracking and metrics used:


The offensive line, was a source of significant investment from the Texans, in draft picks, trades, new contracts and free agents. They posed a much improved unit in 2019 but did that investment yield a proportionate return?

Very few productive offences operate successfully without their line as a strength. So they will be central to the 2020 seasons fortunes.

But the central questions remains – how much did this unit improve in 2019 and is there more to come?

Will the Offensive Line Investment yield dividends in 2020 & Help this team win?

2019 SAXTRAX


In 2019 the Texans offence had 61 sacks registered against them. This number is adjusted to 55 where Watson was under centre (5 on AJ McCarron & 1 on Stills trick play) 42 sacks were posted in the regular season with an 13 additional registered in the Post Season Games

Overall Talent in Pass Blocking – the return of the presumed starters, are clearly of a higher talent than in years prior. In the ’19 regular season, although playing a game less, Watson took 18 less sacks, 30 less hurries and 20 less hits, compared to a year ago. The team did go one game further in the play-off’s before the collapse in Missouri.

Sacks, as a stat, particularly when it comes to Deshaun’s playing style, will often be inflated. It showed up in the play-offs and throughout the season as he scrambles to throw, often at his own detriment. It’s important to separate what role the line can play in prevention and what is an operating cost, when Watsons is attempting to keep plays alive.

TRAX 1.0) Of the 55 registered Sacks on Watson – 30 were attributable to the offensive line – Only 22 sacks were ‘Man’ errors where talent dominated the play

TRAX 1.2) 2 ‘Man’ sacks were attributed to RB – Duke Johnson’s miss when combo blocking Joey Bosa, & in the W.Card game picking up Matt Milano in the B-Gap blitz

TRAX 1.3) Atkins, Fells & Thomas were attributed one sack each across ‘Coverage’, ‘Man’ & ‘Miss’ categories

TRAX 1.3) O-Line assignment errors lead to 5 ‘Miss’ sacks & 5 where mis-handled ‘Stunts’ in the trenches

The Starting five’s Limited Action action Together – the most encouraging stretch, for the OL was after week three, finding their chosen 5 starters (Tunsil, Sharping, Martin, Fulton, Howard) which lead to a level of pass blocking consistency. That group was not allowed to consistently get game time before injury struck. Both Tunsil and Howard missed games, the latter was placed on IR after week 12. Although Greg Mancz was subbed in at right guard (wk4) before not returning until week 16, after dealing with a concussion. There was a clear best 5 lineman found and that showed on tape.

Having this group playing together, healthy, for a considerable stretch would undoubtedly boost the offence’s production. When on the field, the jump in yardage, points, first downs and most importantly – Watson looking noticeably more comfortable in the pocket. The Atlanta & Kansas City games, were not only zero-sacks recorded but the best tape the offence produced, in terms of pass protection. Mostly disrupted by injuries, that personnel grouping played only 18 full-quarters of football together.

The ‘6 games with’ data set seems feasible basis to project next year’s level of play based on having both negative and positive outliers Baltimore Wk11 and Atlanta Wk5 to allow the peaks and troughs of form that occurs in a season.

THE STARTING 5 TOGETHER:

TRAX 1.5) Did not play more than 9 consecutive full quarters together & only 11.8% of total snaps, allowing 5 total sacks

TRAX 1.6) Recorded 3 ‘Man’ Sack – 2 from the Wide-9,D-Gap on strong Side (both) Howard Wk (11 & 12) & Sharping Wk11 against the 3-Tech (B-Gap, Weak side)

TRAX 1.7) 1 ‘Miss’ – Tunsil’s assignment error, returning from injury (Wk11) and 1 ‘Stunt’ were exploited with limited continuity – Sharping’s debut Wk3 (B-Gap weak side)

TRAX 1.7) Gave up 1 sack to a 3-man rush in the 3rd quarter (wk 12), against the Colts Ben Banogu. Tytus’ knee injury kept him out the remainder of the year, after that game

TRAX 1.8) 15 line up changes were made across the season – weeks 2-8 personnel changes directly contributed to 8 sacks

Changes in Personnel Lead Directly to Sacks – The re-occurring theme throughout the season directly impacted the sack line. Some changes were enforced by injury and some form coaches meddling with the formula. 60% Sacks from the OL were from back-up or replacement players.

  • Week 2 – Rod Johnson Replaces Sentrel Henderson – Free Rusher

    Missed Assignment/communication error leaves a choice between Jacobs or Jack & both get to Watson who has Keke Coutee with separation against Myles Jack over the middle

  • Week 3 – Max Sharping in at LG & Howard is moved to RT – Caught with the Stunt

    Three blockers lose pocket integrity against two rushers – leaves Watson limited room to work with Fuller open the in flat.

  • Week 4 – Greg Mancz – Replaces Fulton – At Fault for sacks on back to back plays

    Watson comes off his first read, Shaq Thomson sheds him easily and straight line to the QB, Hopkin open as 2nd read on the crosser

  • Wk 7 – Rod Johnson Replaces Tytus Howard – Gives up two sacks in the first half

    This was a clear TD, but Rod’s second sack in the game, Justin Houston brushes past him form the wide-9 technique with ease “credited” with the sack

  • Wk8 – Chris Clark Replaces Rod Johnson & gives up two sacks

    Clark looked like he had just come off the street to play. Walked back by Justin Tuck in the 5-Tech, straight into Waston, with Hopkins open on the crosser on a 3rd & 11 play.

Injury to Tytus Howards & His presence at Right Tackle – His ability to play at LG then seamlessly move to RT cannot be understated. When injuries interrupted and ended his season the drop in quality was noticeable. The replacement and rotation of Chris Clarke/Rod Johnson was a clear miss-match for defences and the was glaring weakness of the line. The impact of having Tytus there for the majority of the season is a huge step forward from 2019’s Wk1 at N.O., where Sentrel Henderson allowed three sacks on prime time.

TRAX 1.9) Right Tackle had the most errors (15) registered of any position with the most players (4) contributing to any single positions sacks

TRAX 1.10) Only 2 of 15 Sacks given up at RT attributed to Tytus (BAL, Wk11) (IND, Wk12) his final two games before season ending knee injury.

TRAX 1.11) Zack Fulton – gave up least Sacks of any player – 1 – Wk8 against OAK

TRAX 1.12) The interior three of Martin, Fulton & Sharping only contributed to 5 sacks all season & allowed Zero A-Gap pressures with Howard & Tunsil on the ends

LT’s Projected Growth – having some form of pre-season (rather than 5 days) to prepare will help the tackle position take another step forward. Laremy comfort levels grew, after some early season troubles, giving up two sacks in Wk1 and a few shaky weeks post injury, giving up a sack in both Wk11 & 13. Those were his final two concessions of sacks for the remainder. Tunsil’s is upside is huge but it will have to be a vintage year, based on his new contract and his cost to acquire.

Strength of the internal Three Spots – the level of play from Sharping, Martin & Fulton is perhaps flown under the radar. As did the whole team, the three had an afternoon to forget in Baltimore, each being at fault for a sack. For the most part this three were a non recognised source of strength. The weakness of the group would be with powerful bull rushing defensive tackles but theres upside with those three playing together.

Sharping, as a rookie, was a positive addition at LG, after giving up one sack in his debut finished his first campaign as a starter with only two blemishes, a stellar record. Nick Martin’s overall level of play, albeit after an $11m per year extension, was notable. Bar being driven back into Watson’s lap by Vita Vea in Wk 16 & Adam Butler in Wk13 he was solid anchoring the line. Zack Fulton gave up the least sacks of any lineman with one solitary sack against Johnathan Hankins when not getting his feet set on a failed 1st down play-action call.

Scheme or Personnel?

Of the 35 Non-Quarterback assigned sacks with Watson on the field:

It’s often a debate whether one can conquer the other. For the Texans there was some clear talent issues with the right side or the additional blocker failing their assignment. There was an off-season need for depth and many baulked at the Charlie Heck pick but if one of the Tackles was to miss time, then a higher level of replacement type player is required beyond the starting 5.

BIG PHYSICAL FRONTS:

TRAX 1.13) The 4 man rush caused 65% of the sacks beating a 5 man protection in 17 of 23 sacks

TRAX 1.14) A further 20% were the victims of a 5-man rush6 of 7 coming from the strong side

BRING IN AN EXTRA BLOCKER:

TRAX 1.4) 16 sacks came from the strong side of formation, beating 6-man-plus protections 9 times

TRAX 1.13) – 11 sacks were attributed to the 5-Tech Rusher, 7 of which were from the strong side/C-Gap,

TRAX 1.14) 10 sacks were designated to a wide-9 Tech, where 8 of which came from the D-Gap/Strong side of the formation

TRAX 1.15) 8 sacks were due to ‘Free Rushers’ – 1 defensive back, 2 D-Lineman and 5 linebackers, 7 of those coming form the strong side, from both C&D-Gaps

Time, in the this off season will be hard to come by but even based on familiarity alone, if healthy and if coaching sensibility prevails, this offensive line could be the best in almost a decade. But most importantly give Watson time to let his reads or his receiving core unwind down the field.

NEXT WEEK’S ARTICLE WILL LOOK AT:

2019 SAXTRAX – PART 2: The Quarterback – Watson entering year 4.

Where has Watsons development reached at end of year three?

2019 SAXTRAX

SAXTRAX HOME

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