It seems like it’s been forever, but we are finally back to seeing some competitive football played this week. This offseason has felt long, but it’s good to finally be back to the grind of watching tape over the Packers upcoming opponents to help prepare you, the fan, for what you will see during a game.
The goal with my scouting reports is to prepare you enough where you might even be able to call out a play that the opposing team is running before the ball is even snapped. Formations, motions, and personnel can all be things that tip off what the offense is going to run. Even if it is only a preseason game, I still feel like it is important to be prepared to watch a game to see how players will respond to what the Packers are trying to do on either offense or defense. I feel like scouting the offense is always a good way to go because there are so many different looks you will see on offense as opposed to defense. The playcalling might be a little “vanilla” on Thursday, but I feel like I got a good idea of what Bill O’Brien and the Texans offense might try to run at the Packers in their first preseason game.
Two Back Passing Game
Let us start by taking a look at some of the two back sets in this offense. The Texans loved the use of the two back look throughout the 2018 season; mostly in the shotgun formation. When it comes to the passing game, we’ll see a lot of “check and go”. What the backs are wanting to do is check for any rushers, maybe get a chip on the end man on the line (EMOL) and get out to the flats or their designated route. It’s not a bad call at all. With looks like this, it would be easy to lull inside linebackers to sleep, especially in man coverage. In man coverage, the backs are going to be the primary read to their side. In a 2 ILB front, for example, each linebacker will play the back to their side. If the back stays in to block, the ILB will drop in to coverage and play a hook/curl. If ILBs aren’t reading this closely enough though, they can easily miss their assignment slipping out to the flats.
Again we see the chip and go look from the backs in this set. Watch how well the defender plays the back on the short side of the field. He’s patient, shuffling out and not getting too anxious. That’s the best way to play this. Be patient until the back catches the ball and then break on it. Notice also the Sam linebacker to the wide side of the field. He gets depth in this cover 3 look but then reads the back well and redirects to get downhill. The Jags do a perfect job of playing this cover 3 look. Again, players have to be under control, patient and know when to break on the back.
Here we see an example of the Texans backed up inside their own 10-yard line and going with the same look. It’s a safe look for them because it offers max protection with the threat of still leaking out and getting in to a route. There may be one thing that you might have missed in the previous clips though:
In this 2 back look, the boundary receivers always run out routes.
If I’m Mike Pettine and preparing this defense for what they might see, I’m telling my defense to be alert for the out routes any time they show 20 personnel. The best way to combat this would be to play a cover 3 look, just as the Jaguars do in the above clips. Let the corners come up and be aggressive while still having all the support of four underneath defenders.
Another one of the Texans go-to formations is the double wing. What I call a double wing is one back, two tight ends a step outside of the tackle and closely split wide receivers. They are pretty balanced out of this formation, for the most part, showing a decent amount of both run and pass.
One look that this offense loves out of the double wing is play-action passes with boot action from the quarterback. The quarterback and running back are really wanting to sell the outside zone from the snap. Watson is going to really push back and get depth here, selling the run. If you watch the short side tight end, you’ll see that he’s going to pull across the formation to protect. This could be a hard read for linebackers as well. In the same run action, the tight end would do just that. Communication is the key, and it all starts with the inside linebacker communicating to the rest of the defense if it is run or pass. It’s like coaches will always say, “The best defense is a talking defense.”
This offense loves to flex their tight ends out and use them as an H-back. Again, this formation is fairly balanced as far as the run and pass game go. They like to put defenses in a bind and create a 3X1 situation. Watch closely on this play as the tight end heads to the flats with the flanker running a spot route and the number two receiver running an out and up. Its played well by Jacksonville here. The reason it turns out so well for the defense is that they are playing a cover one look. Man defense eliminates a lot of reads and thus takes thinking out of the game as far as reads go. I expect to see a lot of man coverage being played, especially with the second and third string players in the game. Keep in mind that this is only a preseason game, so coaches are going to keep it all pretty simple.
When it comes to the run game, the Texans favor the inside zone out of this look. Its a tough block for the H back, as he has to go across the formation. The back runs a little counter action on this play, so the defense definitely cannot overpursue on this play. One player going too quickly to the playside shoulder of their blocker and the defense is toast. I saw the Texans hit a couple of big runs on this play in other games, so the counter action must be accounted for by the Packers.
Here’s the same run, only from a different angle. Watch as the defensive back rolled up in the box plays the motion man, leaving a decent sized alley for the back to run in. There has got to be plenty of alley support from the defensive backs when they read motion. If I’m a defensive back seeing jet motion ran from this flexed look, I’m thinking run all day. They can’t go to sleep on their keys, as the Texans could be prone to hand it off to the jet from time to time.
- Two back sets will most be block and go by the backs, out routes by the boundary receivers.
- The double wing play-action will catch defenses off guard, especially on third down.
- Jet motion = zone run conept.
- Flexed TE could go either way, play sound defense.
Let’s hope for a great first preseason game and, most importantly, an injury free game.
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