There was some buzz in the draft process about the possibility of the Browns selecting Saquon Barkley at first overall. Instead, they selected Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield. With four picks in the top 35, they had the opportunity to select a high quality running back later in the draft. Passing up on Kerryon Johnson and Derrius Guice, they selected Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb.
Now, 12 weeks into the season, Mayfield and Chubb have combined for six AFC Rookie of the Week honors. The Texans will try to extend their winning streak to nine this Sunday against Cleveland. They have some major game planning to do if they plan on stopping this rookie offensive duo.
Since Hue Jackson got fired by the Cleveland Browns, Nick Chubb has taken over as the main back in Cleveland. Carlos Hyde got traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now, Chubb dominates the carries and Duke Johnson comes in on occasion.
Unsurprisingly, since Hue Jackson’s firing, the Browns are 2-1. The sole loss came against the AFC leading Kansas City Chiefs. Among regular down running backs, Chubb sits second, only behind Mark Ingram, in how often running backs face eight or more defenders in the box.
The Texans do have some of the best rush defenders in the NFL though with J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Kareem Jackson. On the other hand though, Mayfield is already one of the most effective quarterbacks in the league against pressure.
The Texans need to figure out a way to bring pressure on Chubb, while not leaving defensive backs in light coverage against the Browns’ receivers.
Put simply, the Texans need to disguise coverages in the box. Fortunately for Houston, they have a ton of linebackers who can rush the passer effectively and lots of safeties who are great in run coverage. Jackson has been phenomenal as a rush defender this year after his move to safety. Tyrann Mathieu is also effective in run coverage, and rookie Justin Reid is one of the best tackling defensive backs in the league.
It will be imperative for the Texans to bring several defensive backs into the box at a time. It seems obvious that there should be extra defenders in the box regularly for Chubb, but they will need to bring several into the box at a time in order to drop some back into coverage and disguise coverages.
The Texans are a middle of the pack passing defense. With the statistics we’ve seen from Baker Mayfield under pressure, the Texans shouldn’t dial up the pressure very often. Watt, Mercilus, Clowney and maybe even Covington can get home without the extra pressure off the edge. Essentially, the Texans need to show pressure with extra defenders in the box but drop them into coverage regularly. This will allow the Texans to have defenders near the line of scrimmage for Chubb, but also the coverage and disguises to baffle and slow down Baker Mayfield.
The Texans can actually take a page out of the Browns book. This is the type of coverage and rotations that will bring the Texans success.
Keys to Victory
The Browns are tied in first with a +14 turnover differential. They have forced 27 turnovers this season and the Texans sit 14th in the league in giveaways. Watson may need to be careful holding on to the ball in the pocket because the Browns have recovered more fumbles than 12 teams in the league have total takeaways. If Watson can take care of the ball, they should be in good shape.
In the three games the Browns have played since Gregg Williams took over, they are yet to play a close game. They extended their lead against the Falcons to 18 at a point. Last week against the Bengals was also 28 point game in the third quarter. If you fall asleep against this Browns team, you will get scored on in a hurry. Plays like Jonnu Smith‘s touchdown from last week will surely hurt the Texans this week. Come out firing, and don’t go conservative on play-calling.
The Texans are on an eight-game win streak. The players have looked good, but more importantly, the coaching looks much improved from the early season disappointing losses. The gameplan will need to be well constructed today for a win against the Browns. This game may be more difficult than originally anticipated, but the Texans have the firepower to extend their win streak to nine games.