Are the Texans over-reliant on J.J. Watt?
Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus thinks so, and details it in this Insider piece.
Watt has 11.5 sacks, but only two in his past four games. Over those four, he’s been shut out twice. He’s still hugely disruptive, and he’s drawing more and more attention from blocking schemes.
Elsayed says the Texans are not getting enough supplemental pass pressure from their outside linebackers. Brooks Reed has a sack, hit or hurry on 8.06 percent of his pass-rush snaps and Connor Barwin is at 7.32 percent.
“What makes this worse is that seven of the quarterback pressures Barwin has managed have been either of the mop-up variety or when he was unblocked, while the number for Reed stands at six. They don't consistently win one-on-one battles, and it leads to the Texans needing to blitz to create free lanes to the quarterback. That has resulted in Houston blitzing on 45.7 percent of passing plays (the league average is just 31.2 percent).”
Elsayed makes a case for more chances for rookie first-round pick Whitney Mercilus, who has only rushed on 70 snaps, but has a pass-rush percentage of 11.43 percent. Which approaches Watt’s 11.6 percent, a huge number for a 4-3 end.
The blitz frequency is not a concern for me and here’s why: With a more balanced pass rush last season, Houston blitzed even more than they are blitzing now -- 48.8 percent last season according to PFF’s numbers.
If the pass rush is hurting so much, they wouldn’t be blitzing less. And with whatever pressure they are getting, the Texans are getting results -- they’re still seventh in sacks per play, fourth in points per game and first in third down efficiency. Oh, they are 9-1.
Wade Phillips has earned faith that he will find ways to alter offenses. Watt was bound to slow a bit, and the Texans were due to play a dud. Barwin and Reed have proven they can rush, and I expect they will produce some big hits in some big moments to come.
I believe it’s too soon to worry about other scenarios.