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The Film Room: Houston Texans Sack Tracker (Week Six)

Annnnnd we’re back again with two glorious sacks from this past week’s game against the Titans. You’d think Jadeveon Clowney would be gnawing at the bit to try to prove to the Texans that they should have signed him or at least traded him for more, but the former first overall pick didn’t have a real impact on the game. The true show stopper was Jeffery Simmons, who recorded six tackles, one sack, and two quarterback hits in Week 6 against the Texans. Even though Simmons doesn’t spell his first name right, the 19th overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft dramatically outplayed the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

We’re at the point in the season where teams “are who we thought they were”. For the Titans on Sunday, they were exactly that: tough, efficient, unrelenting, and good. Coming off of a short week, many thought the Texans could ride the wave of a bounce-back win and a tired Titans team to an upset win. Everything was looking good until the Titans took the field with a little under two minutes left.

The subheading may give you a hint as to the culprits behind the two sacks this week, but don’t let that stop you from indulging in the quality of these two sacks.

Sack #1 (18): Situation Normal: All Linemen Stink

The second offensive play of the day ends with Deshaun Watson on his back. A resounding “gulp” was heard around the city as we thought we’d be in for a very long day of sacks. Fortunately this was the only sack for awhile as the offense bounced from either being unable to move the ball down the field to ultra-effective.

On this play, the Texans run a play action with three out-routes down the field and two flat routes to the sidelines. Really, this is a simple hi-to-low concept where the Texans hope the Titans coverage breaks down and leaves a glaring hole in the defense. This pass play is designed to beat zone coverage, which the Titans are in, as it forces the linebackers underneath to either occupy the deep zones or dash forward to protect against the easy dump-offs. The best company to this zone defense is a pass rush. Only one Titans player won his matchup, and that’s all the Titans need to sack Watson.

This isn’t a play that we’ve seen all too often by the Texans, which makes it’s all the more interesting to break down. Unfortunately tight end Darren Fells turns downfield to block right when he’s needed the most.

From the All-22 view, you can see that the Titans don’t bite on the Texans’ play-action one bit and are playing a deep zone across the board. It’s a classic Cover 2 look with two deep safeties, two corners in the flats, and two linebackers in the middle.

Welcome to 2020, Zach Fulton! This is excellent team-blocking by the right guard. He starts with the defender directly in front of him and keeps his center of gravity low. His bad habit of tilting his head before contact does glare here, but he handles the initial block well. Then he catches Clowney trying to cut inside on Tytus Howard and immediately comes to support. This has been something I’ve been critical on Fulton for in the past, so I’m glad to see he does his part on this play.

Senio Kelemete is playing left guard. This has been his full-time job as of last week, and so far he’s doing a fairly good job unless it’s a catastrophic error (hint). Off the snap, watch Senio’s hand placement stun Simmons and cause his feet to stop moving. This is ideal for any offensive lineman. So why did Kelemete lose this battle?

Hands. Kelemete caught these hands. Specifically, Simmons’. I wish I had a better view into the horizontal battle between these two huge humans, but the more you watch the end zone view, you’ll see Simmons use that outside leverage to his advantage via his length. Offensive linemen want to control the breastplate of their defensive counterparts, but the defender’s check mate to this is using his length to disengage and create separation. Simmons does this by shifting his weight back and forth and making Kelemete feel like a rubber ducky in a bathtub. Yes, that’s the second rubber ducky reference in three Sack Tracker articles.

Moving down the line…Nick Martin’s pathetic block on DaQuan Jones eventually leads to a sack. Martin does a poor job of moving his feet and staying in front of Jones as the pocket moves. He has to understand that when the defender is turning 90 degrees to the right, it’s for a reason; Watson is on the run. However, that’s not too terribly unavoidable considering how deep they are into the play (four seconds) and having no vision into what’s going on in the backfield. If Martin did adjust even the slightest, it could have saved the sack. But was it enough to deserve credit for the sack?

Evidentially, no. Martin’s lackluster effort to maintain his block does result in a sack, but it is not the cause of the sack. If Kelemete’s man did not beat him outright, Jones has no reason to peel off and run down Watson. It’s a chicken-or-egg concept, and in this one we’re going with the Kelemete because of his precipitation of the pocket collapsing. For this, Kelemete gets half a sack.

I’m giving Watson half a sack for two reasons. First, Kelemete blocks Simmons for a complete 3.5 seconds before getting blown off the ball. That’s more than enough time for each receiver down the field to get into their route. Second, if you re-watch the sideline view, you’ll see that there are open players down the field; Watson doesn’t step into the throw to make it happen. When Watson gets out of the pocket, there’s no one to throw to, so he can’t throw it away, as he’ll draw a penalty.

Sack 2 (19): Texans Get Stunted

It’s 3rd and 8 and the Texans are trying to extend their lead over Tennessee in what would be a landmark comeback and pivotal moment for the team. Even getting close to the first down would put the Texans in place to kick a field goal. The Texans are running a yardage-based play where the scheme is designed to get the first down by finding pockets in the zone.

This type of blitz is called a stunt. Simmons starts in a zero technique directly in front of Nick Martin. This allows Simmons to dive into either A gap (the gaps between the center and guard) without Martin being able to know beforehand. At the snap, Simmons flashes into the right side gap with the goal of attacking Zach Fulton’s shoulder. He’s doing this because he knows Martin is engaged with him. but if he can convince Fulton to do so as well, he occupies two players with an outside linebacker blitzing through the middle.

I wouldn’t consider myself lazy, but I do love when something is done for me. I contribute that to my mother’s willingness and kindness, but hey, a spoon in your mouth is better than a spork, right? In this case, the broadcasters do a wonderful job of drawing up the Titans’ blitz during the game.

One thing to notice is how Kelemete adjusts to the linebacker falling back into coverage. One of the hardest things to do is to properly is to do nothing at all. Again, the timing here couldn’t be worse as Kelemete patiently scans his peripherals to see if anyone is coming. When no one immediately approached, he thrusts himself into sandwiching Laremy Tunsil’s man. From the film, his efforts are futile and actually are consequential to the play at large. If Kelemete stuck around, he’d been able to help Martin with the swinging linebacker and clog the entire blitz.

Playing devil’s advocate, if Kelemete sits there and does nothing while Tunsil’s man beats him around the edge, we’ll look to blame Kelemete for not helping out further. Like As I said, doing nothing is tough work.

Fulton is playing more attention to Jadeveon Clowney than he is Simmons, but that is due to the scene and potential for the outside linebacker to blitz. Which, as we all see, he does. Fulton is in too much of a “catching” stance and does not have much fluidity or flexibility to absorb contact outside of what he’s expecting. When Martin passes Simmons off to Fulton, Fulton does not truly notice his new assignment. This busted blocking is the downfall of the entire play. Fulton’s feet are too close and he has no balance when absorbing even the slighted amount of pressure from Simmons.

Although the radius for Fulton to turn is very short, his ability to recover is hampered by his poor positioning in the pocket. He fails to adjust to the rest of the offensive linemen, and therefore is rendered useless as a quarter of his body tries to stop a fully grown Jeffrey Simmons. Fulton is awarded the full sack as his play on this down leads directly to the eventual sack.

Updated Sack Tracker:

Deshaun Watson: 6

Zack Fulton: 3

Tytus Howard: 2.5

Max Scharping: 2

Nick Martin: 1.5

Darren Fells: 1

COVERAGE SACK: 1

Laremy Tunsil: 0.5

Brandin Cooks: 0.5

David Johnson: 0.5

Senio Kelemete: 0.5

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