The Texans are 1-1 as they enter Gillette Stadium, but the product they’re currently putting on the field is not one that indicates success will come to them this weekend. While their defense is still talented, the offense has struggled significantly, and the main cause can be pointed directly at the offensive line.
Star left tackle Duane Brown is still in the midst of a holdout, and the rest of the line has not done much to inspire confidence. Through two games they have allowed a ridiculous 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. They have been about league average in terms of running the ball, hitting league average through two weeks in Offensive run-game Win Percentage (which you can read about here).
The only bright spot along the line is center Nick Martin, playing essentially his rookie season after his true first year in 2016 to ankle surgery. Pro Football Focus grades Nick Martin as an average player (which can partially be contributed to the lack of talent around him), and no one else on the line gets out of the “poor” tier. PFF isn’t the be-all end-all for the quality of a player/unit, but the atrocious grades given to both guards and tackles along the Texans line aligns with what you see on tape.
The key to how close this week’s game ends up will be the Patriots ability to take advantage of this line. The Patriots haven’t placed a premium on getting to the passer, instead focusing on taking away the run and dropping into coverage, being okay with holding teams to field goals. The Texans have offensive weapons to move the ball if rookie QB Deshaun Watson can find time to get it to them.
If Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler can get to Watson, this game can get ugly quickly. If the Patriots are content to sit in coverage and not take advantage of the Texans weakness, it might be close for a while a la last year’s divisional game.
On this play, starting left to right from the defensive line: the right tackle was late with his punch and let the EDGE defender get into his chest and bull rush him into the backfield. 98 beat the right guard immediately and Nick Martin was late to help, allowing quick penetration into the backfield. Geno Atkins scraped around the edge while the right EDGE defender smashed down. The right tackle followed the edge defender, allowing Atkins to get into the backfield and meet Watson, who was sliding to avoid the pressure from the left EDGE defender.
Between the combination of this offensive line and a rookie QB coming into Foxboro—no rookie QB has ever beaten the Patriots at Gillette—this game has the potential to get ugly quickly. If this offense is consistently breaking off chunk plays like the Saints and Chiefs did, it may be time to start getting a little nervous about the talent of this defense.
Instead, I think Deatrich Wise and Trey Flowers combine for 3 sacks, and let’s give one to everyone’s undrafted darling Adam Butler as well. The Texans offense struggles to move the ball, but their defense does enough to slow down Tom Brady a little bit. Patriots 27, Texans 10.