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Arizona Cardinals Week Four Preview: Scouting the Houston Texans Offense

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When the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans take the field on Sunday it'll be a match of two teams that have been mired in regular season mediocrity since the beginning of last year. Since the first week of the 2008 season the Cardinals and Texans are a combined 20-19 during the regular season and that's not where the similarities end. The two offenses that sport elite receivers and promising young tailbacks but what really drives the Texans' offense?

In order to get a better idea of what exactly makes the Texans' offense tick we decided to break down the history of their "big three." In an effort to stay consistent we'll primarily look at the period of time since Schaub became the starter in Houston.

Matt Schaub: Schaub's biggest problem since coming to Houston has been staying on the field (missed 10 games while playing in 26) but the Texans haven't fallen apart when he's on the sidelines. They've managed a 6-4 record with Shaub on the sidelines and have been just 12-14 with him at the helm. Here's a quick look at his stats in the Texan's wins and losses:

(All numbers are displayed as per game averages)
Schaub Comp Attempts Comp % Yards YPA TD INT Sacks
Wins (12 games) 21.9 33.0 66.4% 297.7 9.0 1.8 0.5 1.5
Losses (14 games) 18.6 28.7 64.7% 197.1 6.9 0.8 1.1 2.1
Total 20.1 30.7 65.5% 243.5 7.9 1.2 0.8 1.8

 

A couple of quick thoughts:

  • First regardless of the outcome of a game,  Schaub is an accurate passer. His completion rate in losses would still rank in the top ten among quarterbacks last season and a 66.4 completion percentage would have ranked fourth last season.
  • One thing that strikes me as odd with these numbers is that his attempts actually go down when the Texans lose. As Cardinals fans we've grown accustomed to Warner throwing the ball all over the place once the team falls behind but I think in this case it might be more of a game plan issue than performance. His lack of attempts in losses might actually be attributed to the coaching staff either wanting to establish a running game early or they might not fully trust him at the beginning of games, although to be honest his attempts have increased each season and his attempts in losses are over 34 this season.
  • The touchdown, interception and sack numbers are about what you'd expect. When he throws more touchdowns than picks and doesn't spend the entire day on his back, the Texans are more likely to win.
  • The number that sticks out the most to me though is his yards per attempt. For those who aren't overly familiar with the "yards per attempt" statistic, 9.0 would have led the NFL in 2008 by more than half a yard while the 6.8 mark would have ranked him some where around 20th in the league. The ability to stretch the field is vitally important to his offense, but more on that in a bit.

Steve Slaton: Slaton is entering his second season so we'll obviously only be talking about 20 games here but he started 15 games last season and ended the year with 268 carries so he had quite an impact on the offense.

(All numbers are displayed at per game averages)
Slaton Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Total Touches Total Yards Total TDs
Wins (10 games)
19.7 80.5 4.1 0.6 2.7 24.1 9.0 0.1 22.4 104.6 0.7
Losses (10 games)
13.0 66.9 5.1 0.4 4.1 31.2 7.6 0.1 17.1 98.1 0.5
Total 16.4 73.7 4.5 0.5 3.4 27.7 8.2 0.1 19.7 101.4 0.6

 

A couple of quick thoughts:

  • Honestly I don't think there's much to learn from Slaton's splits other than that he's a complete tailback. When the Texans fall behind he's just as, if not more, dangerous because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. 
  • One thing that isn't shown on this table but is worth mentioning is that Slaton has had some fumbling issues this season after being relatively sure handed last season. He's already lost as many fumbles as he did all of last season (two) and he's put four balls on the turf as opposed to just three all of last season.

Andre Johnson: Last but certainly not least is a man that needs no introduction. Johnson, as Pyro explained earlier, is simply a beast. He's big, he's fast and he can single handily take over games. One thing that stands out pretty clearly is that the Texans are a much better team when Johnson is on the field. He missed seven games during the 2007 season and the team went 3-4 but in the remaining 29 games since Schaub became the starting QB, the Texans are 16-13.

Johnson Rec Yds Avg TDs
Wins (16 games) 7.9 118.9 15.0 0.9
Losses (13 games) 5.2 66.2 12.6 0.3
Total 6.7 95.2 14.2 0.6

A couple of quick thoughts

  • First, those stats are more than acceptable, win or lose. The difference in the production though quite simply says it all. To put it simply, when Johnson has big games, the Texans win. If he is somewhat contained, their chances of winning diminish greatly.
  • In fact, Johnson has produced 13 games of at least 100 yards since the beginning of the 2007 season and ten of those have led to Texan victories, including a game this season against the Titans.
  • One other thing worth mentioning is the difference in his yards per catch between wins and losses. Two and half yards might not seem like much but think of how that effects a QB's yards per attempt statistic. In games where Johnson is able to make big plays the Texans' offense as a whole is more productive.

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That's obviously a rather condensed look at the Texans offense and there will certainly be more offensive players who will help determine the outcome of this game, but Schaub, Slaton and Johnson constitute the "big 3." How can we make them producing "losing" numbers?