Los Angeles Rams: What to Expect From the Houston Texans Offense

by Tommy Mo
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The Los Angeles Rams continued their three game winning streak against the Detroit Lions in Week 7 at home. They currently sit at 6-1 and 2nd in the NFC West behind the Arizona Cardinals, their only loss in Week 4. The Rams will travel to Houston in Week 8 to take on a team that just traded away it’s starting running back, has a rookie quarterback starting, and is currently 1-6 after losing last week to the Cardinals.

The Rams defense will definitely be watching that film closely to develop a game plan against the Texans. The Texans offense is struggling, only putting up a high of 22 points on the season. They have eclipsed 20 points only three times, failed to score 10 points in those other four games, and have only scored eight points in the last two weeks combined.

The Texans may also officially call this year a rebuild as they have traded away Mark Ingram, one of the bright spots in this pedestrian run game. The Los Angeles Rams defense should have another field day against the Texans and can take advantage of tendencies. Still, like any week, they shouldn’t take this team for granted and should work to put the game out of reach early.

The Offensive Line

Entering the 2021 season, the offensive line for the Texans was a unit in repair. However, it’s a unit that the team focused on improving by bringing in new talent the past few years. In 201,  the Texans drafted Tytus Howard in the first round and traded for Laremy Tunsil.

They also traded for Marcus Cannon prior to this season and Justin Britt came out of retirement. Pro Football Focus rated them the 20th offensive line coming into 2021 – not bad but not great. Currently, only Howard and Britt are starting for the Texans, but guards Max Scharping and Justin McCray, who were previously battling for the same spot, are also starting. This offensive line was expected to be just ok, is now fighting to not be downright bad as illustrated below. This is a matchup the Los Angeles Rams can exploit.

Tendencies

  • OL ranked 29th overall by The Undroppables
  • 32nd in adjusted line yards
  • 21st in adjusted sack rate (6.9%)
  • 32nd in creating 2nd level yards
  • 27th in open field in rating

The Run Game

The running game for the Texans was already one of the worst in the league before they traded away Mark Ingram. Now they are left with the combo of David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay. These are two 1,000 yard rushers that have fallen off from their Pro Bowl years.

While they are both still capable running backs with pass catching ability, neither has shown they are ready to carry the load with a combined yards per carry of 3.25. Johnson has amassed 104 yards on 27 carries, and Lindsay has earned 97 yards on 38 carries. The Los Angeles Rams have allowed just two 100 yard rushers this season.

But because neither running back has rushed for a minimum of 40 attempts, they don’t qualify for advanced stats metrics such as Next Gen Stats. The Texans would be wise to employ a 60/40 split with Johnson to Lindsay, but with a reliance on the passing game, it would expected to see more production from Johnson due to his receiving workload that’s already established.

Tendencies

  • Run the ball 42.68% of the time
  • Last in yards per rush attempt (3.3)
  • 29th in rushing TDs per game (0.4)
  • 30th in rushing yards per game (80.7)
  • 18th in rushing attempts per game (24.6)

The Passing Attack

The plan for the passing attack was thrown into flux this season with Deshaun Watson sitting out while he deals with his own off the field legal issues regarding sexual assault. Tyrod Taylor stepped in to provide a veteran presence but injured his hamstring in Week 2 and has been out since. Taylor was eligible to return this week but is not fully healthy and Davis Mills will get his sixth start. The Texans drafted Davis Mills as a project type QB in the Third Round of the 2021 Draft out of Stanford.

As a NFL prospect, Mills had a decent arm and is smart, but needed time to develop. He is now getting after been thrust into the starting role and the Los Angeles Rams defense will be no easy task. Mills currently holds the third lowest passer rating in the league (74.4), in line with the other rookie quarterbacks.  His completion percentage is just under 65%, tied with Lamar Jackson and one spot behind Ryan Tannehill. While passing for 1,047 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions, Mills hasn’t been great, but the teams’ struggles have not been his own.

The pass catchers for the Houston Texans are a rag tag bunch of veterans and rookies. Former Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks is the star of the bunch with the seventh most targets and fifth most receptions in the NFL. He’s also commanding the NFL’s highest percent share of the Texans’ air yards.

Unfortunately Cooks only has 502 receiving yards, one touchdown, and the fifth worst yards after catch per reception. Second on the receiving list in targets, receptions, and yards is David Johnson. Johnson has been earning his keep through the pass game, gaining more yards through the air (154) than on the ground (104).

Chris Conley has chipped in 137 yards and one touchdown off of seven receptions. However, despite being open he’s only being targeted less than 10% of their routes run. Mills is spreading the ball around to 10 other receivers, yet only tight ends Jordan Akins and Pharoah Brown have more than 10 receptions.

Wide receivers Chris Moore, Nico Collins, and Danny Amendola all have talent, but have all missed multiple games. This group is struggling with injuries and finding a compliment to Brandin Cooks who will step up and make plays.

Tendencies

  • Pass the ball 57.32% of the time (20th)
  • 10th in passing TD% (72.73%)
  • 30th in passing yards per game (194)
  • 15th in completion % (66.05%)
  • 27th in pass attempts per game (30.7)

Defensive Game Plan

The Los Angeles Rams defense outmatches the Texans offense in every facet. The offensive line is missing their best player in Tunsil, and is worst in the league in run blocking. They are better in pass blocking but have not faced a pass rush unit as good as the Rams. The multiple pass rushers on the front-seven will be able to get pressure on Mills who is creating sacks on his own by not throwing the ball away and moving in the pocket.

In the run game, the linebackers will be able to keep pace to the sidelines with either running back out of the backfield.

Where the Los Angeles Rams will have to keep on their toes however is in the passing game out of the backfield and deep shots to Cooks. Johnson likes to work outside the seams of the backfield and the majority of Cooks’ routes are 10+ yards downfield.

Putting Ramsey on Cooks with safety help over top in bracket coverage should help eliminate the deep throws to Cooks. Doing so will allow the strong safety to roll down into the box to cover Johnson. Stay stout across the middle and only give up the short plays. This should be an easy defensive day for the Rams.

Exploiting Tendencies

  • Can play 7 men in the box the majority of the time
  • Attack and put pressure on the offensive line
  • Bring heat on pass downs, show (fake) blitzes on run downs
  • Show Mills different fronts and coverages
  • Pass coverage should consist of Cover 3 and Man coverage with safety help over the top

 

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