HOUSTON — The Houston Texans defense will face an interesting dilemma when they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at NRG Stadium on Sunday. Many believe the wide receiver duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will cause havoc for the Texans defenders, and that is not without merit. In seven games this season, the two have combined for 959 yards (Evans-507, Godwin-452) on 71 receptions. Evans is a big-body wide receiver with a huge catch ratio, while Godwin can stretch the field with his speed.
Yet, the one person that the Texans defenders must contain is Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield, who took over play-calling duties for Tampa Bay with the retirement of Tom Brady. He helped his team get off to a 3-1 start before they went on their current three-game losing streak. Even though he has yet to be as efficient as of late, Mayfield still can exceed expectations numerous times.
“He can move,” said Texans rookie linebacker Henry To’oTo’o when asked about Mayfield. “He still got it. He still looks like the college Baker Mayfield to me. But he can move, and he knows how to make plays. He knows how to throw the ball, and he knows where to put the ball. He can escape the pocket when he needs to and make plays with his legs. We have to contain him and swarm to the ball, honestly.”
Mayfield will surprise many defenders by being able to manipulate the pocket, but he does some of his best work when he is allowed to set his feet and deliver the ball. Of the 1,600 yards he has thrown this season, 1,506 have come from inside the tackle box, while 94 have been generated when he is outside of it. When he feels pressure, his football instincts heighten, as displayed by his 96.7 passer rating compared to 86.1 when he has a clean pocket.
“It starts with the pass rush and we have to get hands in Baker’s [Mayfield] face,” said Texans rookie LB Henry To’o To’o about helping the DBs this week with Tampa Bay WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. pic.twitter.com/mVisUHh1li
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The Texans’ defenders want to see just how good he performs when the pressure is applied by defensive ends Jonathan Greenard and rookie Will Anderson Jr. Houston has a 31.2% pressure rate through seven games this season and is coming off of a six-sack game against the Carolina Panthers.
“He gets the ball out really fast, and he can escape the pocket really well,” Anderson said about Mayfield. “He doesn’t take many sacks and if you watch the film, he escapes the pocket and people are missing him on sacks. So, we have to be really sound on our technique on bringing him down and attacking the ball.”
Tampa Bay has one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL, leading Mayfield to attempt more passes. Even with the duo of Evans and Godwin, the passing game has looked dismal as he has only had one 300-yard passing game and, at one point this season, had a four-game streak of throwing at least one interception. Anderson is aware that the Texans’ front seven must help out the defensive backs that have to deal with their wide receiver unit, and to do that, they have to apply as much pressure to Mayfield as possible.
“Coach DeMeco [Ryans] always says that ‘Rush and coverage always go together,’” Anderson told the Texans Wire. “If we are doing what we are supposed to do up front, then the DBs [Defensive Backs] will have a really good day. It starts with us having a game plan, a rushing game plan that we have practiced all week. We have to rush together and make him uncomfortable in the pocket.”