2019 SAXTRAX PART 2: The Quarterback

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

2019 – SAXTRAX

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

When a season ends with a 24-point lead floundered, it’s often difficult to remain positive, even before a series of questionable off-season moves. But where has Watson’s development reached, 38 games into his pro career? As he is the ever-increasing source of this team’s hopes.

Similarly to the offensive line, consistency need to be found in 2020 from Watson. Last season, sustaining drives was an issue, despite at times looking potent, the offence finished 7th in points & in yards per drive. But there were repetitive series in games where the Texans left the field with zero points and multiple inefficiencies left them 16th in offensive DVOA, measure by Football Outsiders.

Stats by ProFootball Reference

Deshaun’s game, has undoubtedly, significant room for growth, as he becomes more comfortable as a pro. The volume of his sacks numbers are broadly due to his willingness to scramble to find a free running lane or receiver. Many will need to get comfortable that he will always inflate that dreaded stat line, whatever the calibre of players he has as pass-catcher or blockers.

Price of doing Business – Watson only threw the ball away 15 times in 2019 but lead the league with five game winning drives. So his at times, that cavalier approach also comes with a level of pay-off. But when Waston continues to scramble and is not decisive, it can stall the offence. Honing that nature for ‘gotta-have-it’ type plays, whilst knowing when to live for another down, would be an almighty step for Deshaun in year 4.

Tracking & Metrics Explained:

SAXTRAX deemed Wastson was directly responsible for 20 of the 55 sacks incurred.

TRAX 2.1) 12 sacks were due to ‘coverage‘ where Watson held the ball without finding an option

TRAX 2.2) 1 “fumble” against Jacksonville in Wk2 (broken RPO play) and 7 were “Miss” where the offensive script broke down

TRAX 2.3) 12 sacks were ‘Missed Open Targets’ to that the quarterback should feasibly released the ball for a reception

TRAX 2.4) 12 sacks were adjudged to be ‘Failed Scrambles’ where Watson escaped the pocket but the play finished behind the LOS

Failed Scrambles (FS) – Learning when to Run

TRAX 2.5) Watson totalled 20 FS, 15 were tackles, 3 running OOB behind the LOS, 2 resulted in Fumbles/Strips

TRAX 2.6) 11 were in empty-set formations, only one play was against more than 6-rushers

TRAX 2.7) 9 ‘FS’ were versus zone-coverage, 11 against man-coverage of which, 8 were against Man/Cover-1 looks

TRAX 2.8) 12 in total were directly at the fault of the QB, opting to not release of throw the ball away, when only 5 plays were on third down

Where can Watson improve in year 4?

Consider the Situation:
This 2nd & 8 play early in the Wk11, disaster at Baltimore, he presses the issue, missing open target, opts to not throw away. Normally leading to lost yards (257 lost yardage from sacks in ‘19) but this lead to a big turnover early on 2nd down.

2nd & 8 play in Wk11 – continues to scramble with multiple opportunities to throw, recorded as a ‘coverage’ sack but was preventable as a ‘failed scramble’

Take What The Coverage Presents:
In the play-offs Watson continued to over-scramble although its to be admired, at times, he needs to be selective, based on the situation, decisively trusting his run or pass ability.

He doesn’t recognise the cover-2 man (thee perfect look for a QB keeper) but there’s zero open, ends in a 1yard loss, the offence are off the field. As he takes his first step up in the pocket, with that look – it’s go time.

In the Divisional Round on 3rd & 5 play – recorded as ‘Coverage’ sack but was preventable as a ‘Failed Scramble’

Finding the check-down
Watson had 12 sacks on 1st and 2nd downs where a short pass was open but is often caught looking for the big play or takes off to run, when a simple dump-off would suffice.

Week 2 – Jacksonville, 20-personnel set, Gillaspia sits down on his route but Watson takes off and runs out of bounds behind the LOS.

Missed Open Targets (MOT):

TRAX 2.9) 34 sacks in total were adjudged to have MOT, 20 where Watson didn’t fail in scrambling

TRAX 2.10) 21 MOT sacks were when defences only rushed 4 lineman & dropped up to 7 men in coverage

TRAX 2.11) 10 were against Zone/Cover-2 looks & 9 against Man/Cover-1

TRAX 2.12) 14 were missed WR’s (7 Hopkins), RB & TE both were missed on 7 plays, with 6 sacks coming when multiple options were open

TRAX 2.13) 11 MOT sacks, not the QB’s fault, 8 ‘Man’ sacks against Chris Clark & Rod Johnson. (5 form 9-Tech & 3 from 5 Tech)

A Quicker Release
Watson ranked the 25th QB in accuracy within the 0-9yard range, with only 16% of his targets were into “tight” windows (PFF) which showed on multiple sacks. Trusting his instincts & a sharp release of the football would help the offence stay on the field.

There seems to be a hesitancy in his game, partly down to personnel consistency at slot receiver & right tackle but also an unwillingness to take the simple plays, is at times, a limitation.

Wk3 – Atkins is open underneath but Watson hesitates to release for a first down
Wk8 – Fells walks in this 3rd down RedZone play, if released on time, drive ends with a FG
Watson only had 22% accuracy of back shoulder throws in 2019 versus league average of 45% (PFF)
Wk9 – If Waston feels the pressure, Fuller on the Stick route is open for a short gain

Solid Footwork & Eyes Downfield
Watson had the second most time to throw off any QB, clocked at 2.99 seconds (PFF). When his throws take longer than 3-seconds, his QBR drops significantly, often losing composure with his footwork and his movement when climbing the pocket, can become hasty which increases incompletions.

Wk1 – Atkins against Cam Jordan in coverage, steps up but drops his eyes and tackled scrambling
Wk16 – Watsons footwork get untidy, then not able to release the ball quickly for a short gain
Divisional Rd – Multiple options open but Waston drops his head, runs and loses yards

Faster Reading Progressions
68% of Watsons completions were on his first read (PFF) but key routes for 2nd and 3rd progressions such as underneath (57%), swing (55%) and stick (64%) routes all rank below league average in accuracy.

There was a common theme, not allowing the play to develop, mostly against zone coverage, when coming off his first read. He also showed a hesitancy in throwing the out route, when open, this may be linked to his footwork as these throws need some mustard.

Wk4 – Watson bails before Keke’s route develops into the open zone
Wk12 – Multiple options open but lack of conviction on read progression leads to a sack
Wild Card – Steps up well against the free blizter – Doesn’t anticipate Hopkins on the crosser


TRAX 2.14) 16 FBD sacks had a free defender in the backfield, 8 of which were directly on Watson

TRAX 2.15) A total of 12 FBD sacks where the no. of pass protection outweighed the no. rushers, 68% came from Man Coverage

TRAX 2.16) 56% were a result of a 5-Man Rush, which 7 were from man/cover-1 packages

TRAX 2.17) 11 of the 16 FSD plays came from the strong-side, 5 linebackers broke through the strong-side/C-gap

TRAX 2.18) DB’s, LB’s & DL all broke pocket integrity through strong-side/D-Gap at least once contributing to a sack

Mastering Checks At the Line – one of Watsons biggest development area’s into year three was picking up the secondary blitz. It falls on the quarterback to set the hot routes and protections at the line of scrimmage.

At times, credit goes to the defensive disguise but there need to be consistency taking time at the line to check and the re-checking for any late defensive adjustments, before the ball is snapped.

Doing more to get defences pre-snap to show the hand needs to be more consistent.

Wk2 – The DB is not covering after the WR motions, not accounted for – RT left with 2 rushers
Week 4 – Fells is the Clear Hot route into the flat, wide open, DB is a free blitzer for the strip sack
Wk7 – Set as 7 Blockers Vrs 7 rushers in 20-Personnel, Ball has to come out hot Atkins. Half-Back picks up the wrong blocking assignment and the DB is free to get to Watson

A Complex of doing too much?
The play offs numbers skew Watsons sacks for the season with 13 in two games, where he was guilty of forcing the issue. Learning to stay within the system, trust the pass protection, letting plays develop and being more decisive with play choices will be where is game will be required to grow in 2020.

Watson has the ability, in this post Hopkins era, to be a truly elite signal caller in the NFL. But he will need to show he’s capable of taking these mental steps in his game, if he’s to realise his true potential and if the Texans are to wrong their numerous critics.

Next Week’s Final Edition of SAXTRAX – The Scheme

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