Lane integrity is a must when playing a 3-4 defense. A concern coming into training camp, was whether or not the Houston Texans were heavy enough up front with three defensive linemen.
Would the Texans get pushed around? If this was the case linebackers would have to learn to plug the run lanes while defensive linemen held ground and locked up opposing offensive linemen.
In two preseason games the Texans have allowed visiting teams to rush for a total of 214 yards. While this doesn’t appear to be all bad at first glance its what we’ve not seen just yet that is troubling. In the opening drive of Saturdays game the Saints appeared to be able to run at will. Large looming holes seemed the readily available for both Jet and Saint running backs. Let’s not forget the Texans have been up late in both games. The opponents rushing numbers are a bit skewed due to the lack of running by the opposition late in the ball games. One reason for the porous run defense is the constant over pursuit by rookie J.J. Watt.
At times while J.J. Watt is showing tremendous upside on the pass rush. And by no means are we saying Watt is the only problem. Watt’s over pursuit is merely an observation. Anyone who thinks Watt at times doesn’t over pursues during run plays is not watching the same game we are. Watt almost treats every play as if it is going to be a passing play. Watt is young and there still is a learning curve to ride before the young lineman gets the pro game down. During the Saints game on more than one occasion Watt lined up at nose tackle. The results? Mediocre, but it was a nice twist in an attempt to plug the middle of the field with a big body.
In an attempt to show we are not merely isolating Watt’s run performance. During Saturday’s game against the Saints Brian Cushing impedes Mark Ingram’s progress six yards down the field. Only after Ingram ran through a whole the size of a Wal-Mart parking lot and then put Cushing on his back. Where was lane integrity on this play? Just anothe rexample of my concern. Moving on now.
The Texans still have three weeks before the opening of the NFL regular season. If the Texans are unable to correct the run defense issues while still minor along with not having the luxury of going ahead early in games. Then a team will come along that is more run based and built as such. We could see the Texans have trouble with these opponents. Especially if said opponent is able to establish a lead that allows them to keep pounding the rock at the interior of the Texans defensive line.
A true test we are looking forward to seeing during the next two preseason game is for the Texans to go down in the 4th quarter against a run heavy offense. The opponent, who ever it may be, has the ball deep in their own territory and the Texans defense needing a stop against the run base team in order to give the Texans offense a shot to get the ball back.
Otherwise this scenario will not show exactly how strong the Texans are against the run until the regualr season. We don’t want the Texans seeing their first glimpse of this style of play once into the regualr season. The result, if a negative one, for the Texans opens up a bevy of game plans form fitted to exploit the Texans unveiled weakness.