The San Diego Chargers are set to take on the reigning AFC South Champion Houston Texans tonight in Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers Offense has shown signs of improvement through the preseason and hope they continue that progression in tonight's duel.
The Texans Defense hits the ground running in the 2013 campaign and could present some challenges for the new look Chargers Offense.
Here are a few things I find critical to tonight's contest between the AFC opponents:
This is critical. Texans' Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips has a variety of blitz packages with man coverages behind the line of attack. Sending 5 and/or 6 defenders every play makes an offensive coordinator drool given the fact that the defense has to somehow spread the remaining 5-6 defenders across the field.
With man coverage pretty much across the board, this is where Whisenhunt must be patient. We've seen a solid balance of play calling this preseason but those who have studied Whiz knows the consecutive pass plays are eventually coming. This is where Mike McCoy needs to intervene a bit and keep the offensive coordinator from becoming too pass–happy. Together, they must call runs on the obvious passing downs and continue to call the short passing game on any given down.
The deep middle will be there all game, just wait.
Another critical aspect tonight.
If there was ever a time to exhibit any two man routes in the playbook, it's tonight. Simply put, the Chargers can't block the Texans front with just 5 or 6 because they match that number quite often. This obviously leads to 1 on 1 situations. If Rivers and Co. think they can get the ball down field, the only way to accomplish this is to make sure you've accounted for the front and then some.
Like previously stated, the deep middle will be there. But it accounts for nothing if Rivers is in a muddied pocket after the snap and can't full force on his hind leg. Set them up by outnumbering the Texans at the point of attack with heavy sets then you get that safety a few yards up..
(Try to) Neutralize Watt
You knew this was coming. And I really wish it was as easy to do as it was to type it. Wade Phillips aligns the Defensive End up everywhere on the line to expose what he feels is the feeble portion of the offensive line. One way to neutralize (not necessarily stop) Watt is to vary to play calling to his side, while showing a lot of what you did previously in the game.
Allow me to explain.
Watt was dominant in the sack department in 2012. What gets lost in the stats is how high-quality he was and is when it comes to batted passes. A lot of teams figured by "getting the ball out quickly" on his side, it would slow him down and therefore equal success. Couldn't be further from the truth. Tunnel screens (in particular), designed to press the middle of the field, out of run formations would be good way to combat his "view" of the play developing.
Another dimension of his game that gets lost is the run dominance and tackles for loss. The one-gap assignments that Wade runs allows him to pick a hole and go. Often confusing linemen as they figure he should just be controlling gaps. Draws and Inside Traps should be in the early script, as both are designed to get the defense coming up field and get a crease where they've over pursued.
Finally, match strength–versus–strength. Should Rivers and Whisenhunt find that J.J. Watt is head–up over D.J. Fluker on any given snap, they must explore that matchup. If D.J. Fluker can match him, strength wise, it'll force Watt to become more finessed and try to find way to get around the right tackle or simply shift to King Dunlap's side, where we can better assist.