The final practice before today’s day off was another positive step forward for the Houston Texans in their continued preparation for the upcoming season. Another display of improvement kept the day interesting, particularly in team segments of practice where the offense and defense compete head to head. To this point, the competition between the two units has been fairly equal as both have pushed the other and taken their turns getting the best of their counterpart.
At this time of year, the defense is usually ahead of the offense when a team finally hits the field for the start of training camp. The daily battles between the Texans O and D are probably more evenly matched than any other group in the NFL, quickening the process of improving the team as a whole.
This isn’t a reason for panic over the Texans’ defense. It’s still one of the top groups in all of football, perhaps the most talented and deep front 7 in the league, and will surely play like it come September. The reason the offense is keeping up with the D is more about the O and the system in place.
The offense is simple, easy for players to pick up and learn. The reason so many offenses are behind the defenses at the start of the season is because offenses rely more on timing and precision than defenses do. The Texans’ O is no different, but much less of their playbook is dependent on such types of passing plays. The Texans run the ball more than any other team in the NFL and logically use a healthy dose of play-action passes to compliment.
Take a team like the Green Bay Packers or New England Patriots, who rarely throw the ball and rely largely on shotgun passing. It takes time for everybody to get on the same page, especially when you have four to five wide receivers all running routes that much be precise in order for the play to open up. While the Texans certainly do some of this, much more of their passing offense is based off the play-action and involves simple routes and route combinations.
The run fake makes it easier on the wideouts as well, especially for a young group of receivers like the Texans have. Take Keshawn Martin for example, who is having an outstanding training camp thus far. Martin has worked some on the outside, but has primarily been operating out of the slot. In this type of offense, the slot runs a lot of drag patterns and seam routes, built off the play-action. The fake gets the defense going in the wrong direction and even a split seconds worth of hesitation by a defender gives Martin the chance to gain a step and get open. It’s this reason and this reason alone that the Texans might be okay at what initially looked like a weak group of WRs.
So in practices where the offense is competing evenly with the defense, it’s not so much an indication the D is underperforming, just that the Texan offense is further along that most other teams due to the simplicity of the system. But the real exciting team battles have been in the trenches, pitting the Texans’ rush offense against the front 7 of the defense. Arguably the best units of their kind in the NFL, they pushed each other through the first week of camp and will continue to do so in the upcoming weeks.
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