Scouting the Houston Texans’ Offense


What are their field position tendencies? (Run/Pass percentages)


Own 1-20 Yard Line

  • Run – 54%
  • Pass – 48%

Own 20-40 Yard Line

  • Run – 41%
  • Pass – 59%

Mid 41-41 Yard Line

  • Run – 42%
  • Pass – 58%

Opposite 40-21 Yard Line

  • Run – 39%
  • Pass – 61%

Red Zone 20-1 Yard Line

  • Run – 49%
  • Pass – 51%

What are their tendencies by down (Run/Pass percentages)?

1st down

  • Run – 44%
  • Pass – 56%

2nd down

  • Run – 39%
  • Pass – 61%

3rd down 

  • Run – 22%
  • Pass – 78%

4th down 

  • Run – 20%
  • Pass – 80%

Last four games

What are their pass drops?

  • 0/1 step – 24%
  • 3-step – 42%
  • 5-step – 17%
  • 7-step – 3%
  • Rollout – 6%
    • Shotgun

      • 0/1 step – 27%
      • 3-step – 47%
      • 5-step – 13%
      • 7-step – 0%
      • Rollout – 4%

Describe their passing game:

The Texans’ offense is a shotgun-based offense (third-highest percentage in the gun) built around dynamic, explosive play-makers, starting with their QB, #4 Deshaun Watson. Watson is a dual-threat quarterback who does everything in his power to get the ball to his top play-makers, wide receiver #10 DeAndre Hopkins and WR #15 Will Fuller V. Watson extends plays inside and outside of the pocket among the best in the league in order to let plays develop. Over 57-percent of his passing yardage is yardage in the air (air yardage), which ranks seventh in the NFL this season. He currently ranks second in average snap to throw at 2.99 seconds, which demonstrates how he looks to push down the field at times and/or his ability to manipulate the pocket or play outside of the play script for an easy chunk play. His penchant for holding onto the ball has also led to 44 sacks, which is the sixth-most in the league.

The Texans like to attack the middle of the field. Fifty-eight-percent of Watson’s passing yardage comes over the middle of the field beyond the line of scrimmage. Hopkins garners a lot of Watson’s targets over the middle, which stresses the coverage. His quickness, agility, violent hand usage, body control, tracking, and hands are rivaled by only a couple of receivers in the league. Seventy-one of Hopkins’ 146 targets have come over the middle in the 0-19 yard (short, intermediate) range. The Texans dial up the second-most empty set formations in the league (144 drop-backs) to spread the defense out and isolate matchups. Hopkins is used all over the formation. When they want to attack the middle of the field, they will use him to the three-receiver side of the formation. On money downs, they will use Hopkins on the weak side of the formation and run their isolation series from the slot. Based on the matchup and leverage, he will run seams, outs, curls, and even slants. They will also stack Hopkins behind other receivers to make it difficult for top corners to press him, while still executing their high/low route combinations and isolation route combinations. While Hopkins is the primary target on isolation/option route concepts, Fuller is also used occasionally. Fuller is more of a straight-line speedster and has questionable hands (10.91-percent drop rate). His speed cuts are tough to defend when Watson has him as a primary target on the play. Fuller’s status in this game is in question with a groin injury sustained in week 16; he failed to suit up in week 17 against the Titans. Fuller is a crucial cog in the Texans’ passing game. When he is out of the lineup, the Texans’ passing yards per game are nearly cut in half, per ESPN. But WR Kenny Stills, who was acquired earlier in the season, is a dependable vet that has the speed to pop the top off the coverage and make tough catches in the seams and over the middle. The Bill O’Brien offense is a heavy 12-personnel team (1 RB, 2 TEs), utilizing this grouping the third-most in the league at 32-percent. That has increased over the last four games (weeks 13-16) to 36-percent. Tight end #87 Darren Fells has built a great rapport with Watson, and he is their short-yardage passing target. Thirty-seven of his 47 targets have been in the 0-9 yard range. He is typically the tight end aligned as a sniffer (off-line TE position) and heavily used off of play-action on under routes across the formation behind the line of scrimmage or shallow drags over the middle. Once in the red zone, Fells is a top target and must be paid plenty of attention by the defense. Tight end #88 Jordan Akins is also mainly targeted in the short area, but he does add a little more athleticism. He can stretch the field and offer yardage after the catch ability. Running back #25 Duke Johnson is their primary receiving back (71.8-percent of his snaps are as a receiver), and he is a good one. He runs routes like a receiver in the short area and can be used all across the formation because of his skill set. Fifty-six of his 62 targets come behind the line of scrimmage on screens or swing passes and beyond the line of scrimmage from 0-9 yards. Johnson runs a lot of option routes on the backside of nub tight end sets, which is a staple in O’Brien’s version of the Erhardt-Perkins system.

Describe their running game in detail:

The Texans’ run game is balanced but primarily works out of the shotgun. The offense utilizes two main run concepts out of shotgun: split zone runs with tight ends coming across the formation (split-flow), and one-back power run concepts, concepts that attack downhill and get dirty yardage but will also bounce out wide from time to time. Their inside zone run concepts (split-flow) typically start with a tight end in the off-line position aligned opposite of the running back.

Once the ball is snapped, the offensive line will zone block with the tight end coming across the formation in the opposite direction of the line’s blocking. The backs will make their read and pick a hole. Generally, if the tight end is 1-2 yards off the line of scrimmage, a split zone concept is coming. If the tight end is inches from being on the line of scrimmage or on the line of scrimmage, a power run is coming (or outside zone run when QB is under center). The Texans’ one-back power runs are typically run to the strength of the formation out of the same formation. There are times they will add a level of split-flow by inserting a tight end into the backfield (12 personnel) slightly shallower than the QB and RB. On the snap, they will send that H-back across the formation but still pull the back-side guard and run power to the strength of the formation. The split-flow can cause processing issues in linebackers, owing to the multiple levels of offensive flow.

Their primary ball carrier, RB #23 Carlos Hyde, is averaging 4.4 yards per attempt, and most of his carries are on zone runs aimed just outside the center’s play-side hip. Hyde is a 6-foot, 229-pound running back with good balance, who has broken a tackle on 16% of his attempts. However, he averages only 2.7 yards after contact per attempt, which ranks in the bottom third of running backs. He breaks tackles at a solid rate, but once his momentum is stopped, he doesn’t have the quickness to get back up to top speed or the momentum to continue to break tackles. Stopping him before he gets going will be crucial this week. Once he’s wrapped up, defenders should be attacking the ball, as he has fumbled four times, which is tied for the third-most in league with Bills RB #26 Devin Singletary. Johnson is a more elusive runner than Hyde; he has broken 23 tackles on 83 attempts. His quickness and shake have allowed him to gain 302 of his 410 rushing yards after contact. The Texans do sprinkle in outside zone run concepts with Johnson, but this is typically with the QB under center, and this is when the defense has to key the alignment and depth of the tight end. Finally, Watson is also a fully capable threat in the run game. The Texans build read-option concepts off of the aforementioned run concepts, so accounting for him on every run is a must. Watson has 82 rush attempts this season, but only 20 are considered designed runs. He is a slippery and efficient runner who rarely takes big hits and always dips out of bounds. Due to the number of empty sets they employ on offense, Watson is always a threat to pull it down and run. In fact, he has pulled it down and run 12 times out of empty sets for 121 yards and six first downs. Those attempts and yards are ranked third, behind only QB Lamar Jackson and QB Josh Allen. The Texans’ run and pass game mesh well. They force you to defend every player in the run game, and their play-action passing game is baked into the very same formations, making it very difficult to discern run-to-pass.

List their top three personnel groupings and tendencies:

  1. 11 personnel
    1. Pass – 62%
    2. Run – 38%
  2. 12 personnel
    1. Pass – 51%
    2. Run – 49%
  3. 21 personnel
    1. Pass – 38%
    2. Run – 62%

Top receiving targets on 3rd down:

  1. WR DeAndre Hopkins 
    1. Targets – 32
    2. Receptions – 22
    3. Yards – 197
    4. Touchdowns – 1
  2. WR Will Fuller V
    1. Targets – 19
    2. Receptions – 13
    3. Yards – 196
    4. Touchdowns – 1
  • RB Duke Johnson (18 targets) and WR Kenny Stills (17 targets) are targeted a fair share on third downs.

Top ball carriers on 3rd down:

  1. RB Carlos Hyde
    1. Attempts – 18
    2. Yards – 70
    3. Touchdowns – 0
    4. First downs – 11
  2. QB Deshaun Watson
    1. Attempts – 15
    2. Yards – 124
    3. Touchdowns – 1
    4. First downs – 9

Draws by down:

  • 1st down – 3 attempts, 26 yards
  • 2nd down – N/A
  • 3rd down – 2 attempts, 17 yards
  • 4th down – N/A

Screens by down:

  • 1st down – 12 attempts, 12 completions, 61 yards, 1 touchdown
  • 2nd down – 9 attempts, 9 completions, 33 yards
  • 3rd down – 11 attempts, 11 completions, 64 yards
  • 4th down – N/A

How does pressure affect the QB?

Watson completes 48.6% of his passes when he is under pressure, which ranks 13th among quarterbacks, to go along with 1,067 yards, eight touchdowns, and five interceptions. Watson brings on a lot of the pressure because he hangs onto the ball for extended amounts of time. He is ranked seventh in under-pressure percentage at 38.5-percent.

Does he scramble to run or pass?

Watson looks to pass when he scrambles. His improvisation skills are some of the best in the league, and it allows his receivers to uncover and move the chains.

Scramble – Look to run to Def. Lt/Rt/Mid?

Watson primarily scrambles outside, but there aren’t any tendencies on direction.

Ball security when scrambling:

Watson pumps his arms with the ball in his hand, so there will be opportunities to swat the ball out when he looks to escape the pocket. In all, Watson has fumbled it ten times this season, six coming as a runner.

Red Zone


What are their tendencies by down and distance?

Tendencies by down:

  • 1st down
    • Run – 37%
    • Pass – 63%
  • 2nd down
    • Run – 44%
    • Pass – 56%
  • 3rd down
    • Run – 20%
    • Pass – 80%
  • 4th down
    • Run – 50%
    • Pass – 50%

Leaders 20-11-yard line (high red zone):

  • Targets – 8 WR DeAndre Hopkins
  • Receptions – 6 TE Darren Fells
  • Yards – 77 TE Darren Fells
  • Touchdowns – 3 TE Darren Fells, 3 RB Duke Johnson, 2 WR Kenny Stills

Alert: TE Fells

Leaders 10-Goal line (low red zone):

  • Targets – 5 WR DeAndre Hopkins, 5 RB Duke Johnson
  • Receptions – 4 WR DeAndre Hopkins, 4 TE Darren Fells
  • Yards – 22 TE Darren Fells
  • Touchdowns – 4 TE Darren Fells, 3 WR DeAndre Hopkins

Alert: RB Duke Johnson

Tight end Darren Fells is a serious threat in the red zone. Fells leads in total red-zone targets, and he can score from the low or high red zone. He’s targeted the second-most in the red zone but leads in most receiving categories from that part of the field. Typically, Fells or Johnson are targeted on the back-side of 3×1 trips formations. The Texans love to isolate Johnson on linebackers on out or corner patterns out of the backfield. Once inside the five-yard line, Hopkins is the go-to in the passing game, hauling in four receptions on four targets for three touchdowns. Fells was targeted two times inside the 5-yard line and brought in both of them for touchdowns. Any time the offense is in shotgun with a tight end in the off-line position inside the 10-yard line, be on alert for a play-action under route across the formation by the tight end.

Favorite plays in the Red Zone:

  1. “Dig” combination to trips side (Double China-7). The combination on the right is a base concept, but they have scored several touchdowns using this combination once they’ve entered the red zone.
  2. “Foot” combination to the TE side. The combination on the left is one utilized in crucial situations when they believe they have a mismatch with RB Johnson on a linebacker. Linebackers have to be judicious when sliding to meet Johnson because if he is over-played in either direction, then Johnson will manipulate the route stem with his quickness and immediately blow by the defender. Patience by the linebackers or safeties and playing with shoulders over toes will be key to not giving up an explosive play on this combination.


*Statistics used in this article are courtesy of Pro Football Focus, Sports Info Solutions, and Sharp Football Stats.