The Houston Texans have a specific kind of offense. It’s an offense that works off the run game.
The problem you face with that is what happens if the run game is not working.
I think Texans quarterback Matt Schaub isn't a bad thrower, but I think most people view his as a complimentary-type quarterback, a guy who needs all the other parts of the offense to be working to be successful.
Quarterbacks like that have a smaller margin for error because their talent level isn’t great. This season, Schaub has at times been skittish in the pocket, had little velocity and erratic accuracy. Schaub looks like he has lost velocity, and he didn’t really have any to lose. Schaub has thrown some very bad picks, ones a veteran shouldn't throw, and those plays have become magnified.
The hallmark of Schaub's game has been efficiency, and the Texans have been very, very good the past few years throwing on first down because of the run game. They’ve been able to generate explosive plays off first-down play-action fakes. They’re a shot-play offense, using a hard run action out of run personnel and formations. First down is always best down to throw on, especially if you run the ball well because you get predictable fronts and coverages. You have a good sense of what you’re getting.
However, at some point you have to be able to be multi-dimensional on offense by choice, not because the defense makes you that way. There will be games when things are taken away, and you can’t be stuck. In Week 2 the Ravens had a successful day, running a high percentage of man coverage with the corners mostly pressing the receivers. They had some inside blitzes, and overall the design was to challenge Schaub and his receivers.
When you’re in tough situation – when it's third down and 9 against a tough defense – you’re going to have to be able to throw the ball. You have to do it effectively if you’re going to be a championship-type team. And we know what the Texans' track record is: Their offense isn’t built on being proactive with the passing game other than first-down pass plays.
It’s like in baseball. Anyone can field the good hops. But that doesn’t always happen.
- - -
NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.