(SportsRadio 610) -- Seth Payne is a man of desires. Many of those desires involve the Texans.
But Seth is a simple man, and he doesn’t ask for much. He just wants football to be played the way it’s supposed to be played.
Here’s what he is wishing for this week...
Keke Coutee is not allowed to fumble. I know we’ve had a topsy turvy relationship with Keke, but he absolutely needs to stay on the gameday roster and be a part of this game.
Why do we need Keke in this game? Because nobody moves with the same speed on jet sweeps as him. That turns into genuine stress for the defense, whether Coutee is getting the ball or not.
You can throw 40-yard dash times out the window. I want to know how fast a guy runs from hash mark to hash mark while timing it up to be directly behind the guard when the ball is snapped.
I need to see me some more of that.
When he does get the ball, however, I hereby mandate that he clings onto it like it’s the last COVID mask in a hot spot.
Anchoring double teams
The defensive line needs to do a better job anchoring against double teams. It’s not like they’re getting blown 5 yards down the field, but they are getting knocked out of their assigned gaps.
They are close to being OK, and as Vince Lombardi once said, “Close enough is fine for the most part. I guess.”
Some of the missed tackles by the linebackers, for instance, are at least partly due to the holes being far too wide. The linebackers end up having to make an open field tackle on a running back who hasn’t been slowed down at the line of scrimmage whatsoever.
Note that I am not letting the linebackers off the hook. Sometimes Cunningham misses tackles because he decides he’d rather throw the runner like a hay bale than actually drive him to the ground.
Be more deceptive.
Since the early days of football, deception has been a staple of football. In 1903, for instance, Pop Warner designed jerseys that allowed his Carlisle players to hide the ball underneath the fabric.
Warner didn’t feel all that great about it, but they were playing Harvard, who likely deserved it. [The Vince Lombardi quote was a joke, but this one is true. I swear!]
The Texans need to be better salesmen with their deception.
Take the bootleg, for instance. Gary Kubiak’s teams tend to be masterful at making the outside zone run and the bootleg look almost exactly the same.
As a defensive lineman who played against Kubiak’s Denver teams, I will tell you that it was the most frustrating thing in the world.
You fire off the line and read run, because, well, the offensive line was run blocking. You’d lockout your man and feel like you had got a good thing going, only to realize as you passed a hash mark that John Elway was over at the other hashmark throwing the football.
Do that at altitude 10 or 20 times and tell me how your legs feel in the fourth quarter.
And it’s not just the defensive line that is fooled when the scheme is run properly. The linebackers and safeties overcommit both toward the line of scrimmage and sideline, and by the time they correct themselves it is too late.
The Texans offensive line is simply not good at this. The defense can read very quickly whether it’s run or pass. Instead of buying their quarterback extra time, the line has doomed him to a shortened down with well-covered receivers downfield.
The quarterback also needs to do his part. Deshaun Watson has done a much better job this year of making his actual handoffs look exactly like his fake handoffs, but at times he could be more exaggerated in his motions.
After handing the ball off, Deshaun can take more hard steps away from the play instead of turning into a spectator.
On outside zone runs and bootlegs, the running back and Deshaun should be meeting much deeper and further away from the center than they currently are. Ideally, the quarterback has to hustle his ass off just to make it to the handoff or the fake.
The snap count.
All of these offensive linemen went to college. Most of them got their degrees. Do they realize how much they are devaluing their respective alma maters when they can’t complete the simple task of starting the play in unison?
For the love of Jack Easterby, can you please figure out the snap count? At the very least, can you stop complaining to the officials about calls that are 100%, undeniably correct?
Pass blocking basics
Several times this year, offensive linemen have bitten on slants and stunts so completely that I have doubts about their gameday sobriety. What substance might cause a professional to abandon basic principles that he learned back in youth football?
Trick question! It’s multiple substances! I think they’ve spiked the Gatorade with quaaludes and meth. The quaaludes affect their reaction time and judgment, but the meth makes them jump on the first defender they see like a horny rabbit on payday.
Ross Blacklock was ejected after getting into a scuffle with right tackle Orlando Brown after Brown and the guard thoroughly handled Blacklock on a double team. I’m not nearly as upset at Blacklock as Watt was after the game, but getting ejected is a breakdown in discipline.
It also looks a whole lot better if you at least take care of your business beforehand.
Blacklock had a couple “welcome to the NFL” moments versus the Ravens. He needs to spend this week focusing on how to make it look better between the snap and the whistle, instead of trying to salvage his pride after the play is over.
Antonio Smith was infamously suspended for swinging his helmet at Richie Incognito, but at least Antonio routinely kicked Incognito’s ass in the actual game of football.
YOLO BILL needs to go full YOLO. FLY YOUR FREAK FLAG, BILL!!!
If you’re going to embrace the analytics in the diciest of situations----going for it on 4th and 1 from your own 34---then stop settling for field goals in the red zone when you need scads of points for a comeback.
It’s hard to get down to the opponent’s 17-yard line, so when you’re down by 17, just go for that touchdown now and save the field goal for an arrested drive later in the comeback.
The Rays of Light
Hey, Seth is not all sour milk and puppy piss. The Texans are doing some things well. Here are a few of those things they can build on.
Though I’m frustrated with their current execution, I hope Tim Kelly continues to work on Deshaun’s bootleg game. It’s the safest way to use his legs. He always has the opportunity to either throw the ball away or run out of bounds. Also, as teams game plan for bootlegs, it should open up the run game on the inside.
Outside linebacker Jacob Martin is learning and transforming.
Last year, he was very much a boom or bust. Look, his smaller frame means that he’ll have some rough downs versus the run from time to time. But he’s starting to make good things happen more consistently in both the run and pass game.
My nominee for more playing time from last week did see more time! PJ Hall! He played about 2/3 of the snaps, partly because JJ Watt had to take some plays off to nurse his groin.
PJ had 43 snaps versus Baltimore, after playing just 17 the week before. On JJ’s first sack, PJ was pushing the pocket. Nothing glamorous, but making Jackson uncomfortable.
Randall Cobb caught a ball at the end of the 2nd quarter for a 9-yard gain as the Texans were hurrying to set up a field goal.
The two Baltimore defenders who tackled him laid on top of him in an effort to bleed time off the clock, which would have prevented Watson from spiking the ball with time remaining on the clock.
Cobb freaked the hell out, kicking his legs and presumably screaming bloody murder, which is exactly what he needed to do. The defenders could have been charged with delay of game, but they were playing the game of trying to do just enough to muck things up. Because Cobb threw a fit, however, the ball got kicked around and the official realized what the Ravens were up to.
The referee made the executive decision to stop the clock, giving the Texans enough time to clock the ball.
The Pep Talk
I know it’s tempting to abandon all hope at this moment, given the relative non-competitions that we’ve watched the last two weeks.
What I keep reminding myself, and I encourage you to do the same, is that Deshaun Watson is still very much one of the ascending young quarterbacks in this league. Because of the meteoric rise of Mahomes and Jackson, and because the last three Texans games have been so painful, it’s perhaps too easy to forget that Deshaun is still growing as a player.
I would never encourage you to be patient because you can save being patient for real-life stuff. But I would encourage you to keep the faith that Deshaun will figure all of this out.
Now as for Bill O’Brien….