The Houston Texans have a formidable running game, and the San Diego Chargers will need to be on top of their game in order to contain it. Also, the visitors have one of the premiere passing catchers in the NFL in Andre Johnson. How do the Chargers go about countering this? I watched several Texans games from last season and took away the following notes.
Against the Run
- The Texans rely heavily on the running game, and shutting down Arian Foster is no small task. He is decisive and agile, capable of eluding defenders. The Texans try to open up one-on-one matchups in the passing game by forcing defenders to commit to stopping the run.
- The Texans had difficulty running against the New England Patriots last year, and it was largely due to the stellar play of Vince Wilfork. He was able to push Pro Bowl center Chris Myers around and disrupt the running lanes. If Cam Thomas can be a disruptive influence against Myers, the Texans will be forced out of their game plan. Failing this, pressure up the middle could have much the same effect. However, it also takes away defenders from gap control.
- Sealing the edge will be extremely important against Foster. Jarret Johnson is excellent in this aspect of his game, but it has long been a weakness of Dwight Freeney's. He will have to remain disciplined to keep Foster from bouncing outside for a big gain.
Against the Pass
- Andre Johnson is still one of the top receivers in the NFL. He runs precise routes and is excellent at finding holes in zone coverage. Other than TE Owen Daniels, the Texans have not been able to produce a receiving threat opposite him, allowing defenses to focus their attention on Johnson. The Chargers will need to make sure there is safety help against Johnson much of the time.
- The Texans are fond of motioning the back out wide. This allows Schaub to read the coverage presnap. This also creates possible mismatches in coverage, and opens up the middle of the field for receivers to work. Donald Butler will have to be on the top of his game when the Texans do this, as a pass will likely come in the middle of the field in the 5-15 yard range.
- When the Texans go with receiver-heavy formations, they will often bunch them together and have them run crossing route combinations to create separation from defenders. Defenders need to be aware of this and stay with their assignments or perhaps cover zones against these combos.
- I found that Matt Schaub appears to be less accurate when throwing to his left. Instead of squaring his body in the direction he wants to throw, he will often throw across his body, a less accurate throwing motion. Defensive backs on that side may be able to get away with playing their receivers more aggressively.
All of that said, the defensive gameplan is simple. The Chargers need to force the Texans to become one-dimensional. If the young and talented defensive line can slow down the running game and force more passing situations, the Chargers have a chance at limiting the points scored by the Texans, which should give the offense a chance to win the game.