Week 4 Recap:
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans
Here we are now, four games in, and DeAndre Hopkins has been an enormous disappointment. Rookie Will Fuller is the the Texans number one receiver so far this season. Lamar Miller is performing as an RB2 when he was drafted as an RB1. DeMarco Murray looks really good! Is this 2014? Let’s take a look at the film.
Full disclosure, I am a Texans fan. I might have taken their section a little too far.
The Titans offensive line was quite a surprise in this one. I had to go take a look at the ProFootballFocus player grades. The interior of their line was definitely suspect – I saw Wilfork come up big on several plays. Clowney also had some nice plays when he lined up closer to the middle of the offensive line. All of that being said, I think this contributes to how well Murray has been running. I will try to include offensive line grades moving forward. I believe how well a line is playing has some influence on how well the team’s fantasy players perform. See, running backs.
Tennesee Titans offensive line ProFootballFocus player grades.
|Taylor Lewan, LT||1/75||90.8||83.3||95.5|
|Quinton Spain, LG||23/71||77.3||79.2||78.7|
|Ben Jones, C||8/34||81.1||71.1||79.7|
|Josh Cline, RG||22/71||77.5||81.5||76.2|
|Jack Conklin, RT||4/75||86.2||85.3||83.3|
Quarterback: Marcus Mariota played poorly in this game. The offensive line played fine for the most part, but there were times when Mariota faced a lot of pressure. The play calling was questionable at best. This offensive coaching staff is not very creative. All of that adds up to a disappointing performance for Mariota who went 13/29 (44.83%), 202 yards, and 1 INT. There was a decent amount of pressure on Mariota at times during the game, but the Texans only got home for a sack once. His mobility enabled him to escape the pocket and extend a few plays. Unfortunately, his throws were inaccurate when he did. He locked onto his first read way too frequently. This led to several near interceptions. Some credit should be given to the Houston secondary. They are playing very well as a group, and there were a very limited number of blown coverages. I think I only counted two. FootballOutsiders rates them as the 5th best pass defense in the league. They are 30th against the run.
Running Back: DeMarco Murray. What a game. He ran hard, he showed power, he showed patience, he cut well, he changed direction really well, and he has excellent vision. He’s not a high top-end speed guy, but he has good enough quickness to get around the edge. There was one play at 4:34 in the 4th quarter. The play was designed for Murray to run off the left tackle. It looks like he’ll run into a wall of linemen, but he stops and side-steps three times to get turned around. He then bursts around the right edge for a 10-yard gain. It was an incredible play to watch. This is only one example of a great play by Murray from this game. This offensive line is much better than I had anticipated coming into the season. It has led to Murray being the biggest contributor on offense. It’s hard for me to not say he’s an RB1 moving forward.
Through four weeks, the snap counts are split as follows: Murray 50, 41, 51, 64 and Henry 21, 31, 24, and 9. I don’t know whether that was due to game flow or if this was intended by the Titans coaching staff. The snap counts on the season do not suggest that Henry will be phased out. I would expect this game to be a bit of an outlier for the Titans’ RB snap counts. However, the way Murray played, the Titans would be foolish to not keep giving him the ball.
Tennessee Titans running back touch breakdown against Houston Texans Week 4.
Wide Receiver: Do I have to? Alright… It’s hard to catch passes when they’re constantly over or underthrown. I put the lack of success of the receivers primarily on the poor play of Mariota. Walker and Sharpe led the team in targets, but they weren’t necessarily quality targets. The Houston secondary is 5th in FootballOutsiders’ DVOA rankings against the pass. The receivers had a tough time getting open. Tajae Sharpe had a few drops. There was one play where he caught the ball in the flat, but it was jarred loose when he was tackled. I felt like he could have held onto it, but the bad break seemed to reflect the entire day for the Titans’ passing game. He’s still getting the majority of the wide receiver targets, so the volume will certainly help you. He’s a WR4/flex for me until Mariota starts throwing him better passes.
Rishard Matthews had two targets, and they were two of the few good throws from Mariota on the day. The first was at 13:00 left in the 2nd quarter. It was a 60-yard gain when Matthews hesitates at the top of his route and then runs by his defender. The other one was a scramble where Matthews does a nice job cutting inside to get open and keep the drive going. He had 35, 36, and 43 snaps in each of the first three weeks, but now that Kendall Wright is back it looks as though he will split work with him. Wright did make an appearance here catching tow quick slant routes, but he didn’t do much with them. Look for Wright to disappoint yet again as a viable fantasy option, and in the process take Matthews down with him.
Tennessee Titans receiver target distribution against Houston Texans Week 4.
Tennessee Titans receiver target distribution for the 2016 season.
Tight End: Delanie Walker is the only tight end worth mentioning. As with Matthews, his production will be capped by Mariota’s play. I would still use him, but mainly because of the volume of targets he receives in this offense.
Bill O’Brien took over play calling after the disastrous Thursday night game in New England. I mention this to say that it’s tough to know what to really expect from the Texans moving forward. I assume that the play calling will be similar to what we saw in the Titans game moving forward, but that’s ultimately just a guess. As far as what’s wrong with the Texans skill players, I primarily place this on their offensive line. This film looked about as bad as the Panthers offensive line in the Falcons game. The Texans replacement center is their best offensive lineman, and he has played like a middle of the road player at his position league wide. Their ProFootballFocus player grades are given below. Man is it disappointing.
Houston Texans offensive line ProFootballFocus player grades.
|Chris Clark, LT||58/75||50.1||71.0||43.6|
|Xavier Su’a-Filo, LG||62/71||48.2||73.0||40.4|
|Greg Mancz, C||19/34||74.4||81.6||50.4|
|Jeff Allen, RG||52/71||54.9||82.2||37.8|
|Derek Newton, RT||34/75||74.6||48.3||82.7|
The Texans’ pass/rush splits for their offensive plays are shown below. The first two games were close, and the Texans were nearly evenly balanced. In New England the Texans got down early due to poor special teams plays, and they were throwing to try to catch up. The game against the Titans was closer in game script to the Bears and Chiefs games. I mentioned it before, we have no idea if this is a sign of things to come. If you buy into this narrative, then that means you believe, like I do, that this is a sign of things to come.
Houston Texans pass/rush splits in each game in 2016.
|Opp.||Pass Att.||Rush Att.|
|Kansas City Chiefs||33||34|
|New England Patriots||41||27|
Quarterback: Brock Osweiler played alright in this game. His stat line was 25/37 (67.57%), 254 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. I would say he was slightly above average. The good for me was that he made a few nice adjustments at the line of scrimmage, and he made some really nice throws. He added in one rush for 14 yards that sustained a drive in the 4th quarter. The bad is that he still makes bad decisions and is not a consistently accurate passer.
I blame his interceptions both on him. One of his picks was an ill-advised throw. He stepped up into the pocket and makes an off-balance throw to Hopkins that was nearly too high for anyone to catch. Nuk attempts to make a one-handed grab, but McCourty does a nice job to snatch it out of the air. The second interception was an underthrow of DeAndre Hopkins that Parrish Cox simply jumps up and catches. Had Osweiler gotten a little more air under it this would have been a nice catch and possibly touchdown down the sideline to Hopkins.
This game film pretty well matches up with what I think of Osweiler. He’s an above average quarterback. I do think that players can get better though, and he has shown some signs that his time spent under Manning was not a total waste. For fantasy purposes, I wouldn’t mind playing him in the right match-up as a streamer or bye-week fill in. I wouldn’t rely on him as anything more than that.
Running Back: There really isn’t anything wrong with Lamar Miller other than running behind a very bad offensive line. He has good vision, he showed nice burst, he is excellent in pass protection, and he has decent power. On a few occasions he appeared to hesitate and dance behind the line of scrimmage, but as the game wore on he became much more decisive. This started to open up the game a bit more for him. In the fourth quarter Miller had a couple of really nice runs that went for chunk yardage. There were several plays where he was ever so close to breaking a big run. Sure, his offensive line play is terrible, but there are signs of life here.
His tape honestly didn’t look too much worse than Murray’s. He had a very similar stat line to Murray, but he did not have the touchdowns. Touchdowns can be fluky, and if he continues to get this work load I highly doubt that the touchdowns don’t come. Alfred Blue was effectively in to relieve him when he needed a break, so there is no doubt that he is THE guy in Houston. The offensive line really didn’t do him any favors as he was often met at or before he got to the line of scrimmage. The fact that he didn’t have more negative yardage plays was impressive to me. He is in a situation similar to T.J. Yeldon (at least to me). He’s a top tier talent with a bottom tier line.
If I am in a league with a worried Miller owner, I would be looking to acquire him even with a tough slate ahead – they face the Vikings this week and the Broncos in two weeks. Both games are on the road. The Vikings defense is really good, but they struggle against pass catching backs and tight ends. FootballOutsiders rates them as 4th against the run but 20th against pass catching backs, and they are 17th against tight ends. I watched Fozzy Whittaker put up a nice game against this defense, and he even had a 50+ TD pass called back due to a penalty. The Broncos defense is also really good, but they are 23rd against the rush and 18th against pass-catching backs. The Vikings and Broncos sandwich a matchup with the Colts – which is a dream match up.
Houston Texans running back touch breakdown against Tennessee Titans Week 4.
Wide Receiver: I want to address Will Fuller and Nuk Hopkins in more detail, because they are really the only two wide receiver options I want to start here. But first I wanted to include the receiver target stats for this game. Jaelen Strong has been used more heavily these past two weeks with Braxton Miller out, but Miller is expected to come back next week against the Vikings. Not that it really matters much. I wouldn’t rely on either Strong or Miller as anything more than a WR4/5, and even then that’s only in PPR. Braxton is definitely worth keeping an eye on though. He had replaced Strong as the third wide receiver in the preseason. With the new play calling I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of Miller as the season goes on.
Houston Texans receiver target distribution against Tennessee Titans Week 4.
Will Fuller has impressed me greatly this year. The story on him coming out of college is that he was fast but that he didn’t have good hands. Thus far this season he has caught 55.9% of his passes. That’s better than Nuk’s 51.5% catch rat, but Fuller receives much higher quality targets. His nickname is Flash which is very fitting, because he is incredibly fast. I did not think he would be as good as he has been, but he is still a rookie. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him come down to earth a little bit. I have heard it said by numerous analysts that once there are four games of film on a guy, most defensive coordinators can figure out how to game plan for them. He does have a few tough matchups against defenses I believe can shut him down, so I wouldn’t rely on him as more than a low-end WR2/flex play, but there is definitely WR1 upside. Ultimately, I still don’t trust him to keep this hot streak going, and I see him as a much better version of Tedd Ginn Jr. These next few weeks will be a good test to see how good Fuller really is.
DeAndre Hopkins has been a huge disappointment thus far this season. I think he’s about to come back in a big way though. He got 6 targets but only one of them was catchable. Which he caught for a four-yard gain, and then he kissed the ball. My take on why Hopkins is struggling is that the line is struggling in pass protection. Particularly their tackles. A good way to mask offensive line deficiencies is to get the ball out of Osweiler’s hands quickly with short, quick passes. He often threw to one of his first two reads. It is smart on O’Brien’s part, but it is frustrating for fantasy owners. Brock is probably being told not to screw it up. As a result, he’s not throwing to Nuk because he doesn’t appear to be open. But Hopkins is open even when he’s not open. Throw a catchable (he hasn’t seen to many this year) pass his direction, and he will more than likely come down with it. My outlook for Hopkins is that he will become the number one target again. I just don’t see how they can continue to not utilize arguably their best player now that Watt is out.
Tight End: C.J. Fiedorowicz was a highly touted recruit coming out of college. The Texans former third round draft pick is in his third year in the league. It looked like he was getting things figured out. O’Brien has been preaching that they need to get the tight ends going, and he definitely did that in this game. Unfortunately, Fiedorowicz sprained his MCL during the game blocking a field goal. He did come back into the game, but he was missing for a significant chunk of time. As a result, the TE stats look more even than they really were. Before Fiedorowicz went down, Griffin was only targeted once. Now that Fiedorowicz may be limited, I look for Ryan Griffin to be a potential spot start. I would prefer the likes of Brate, Tamme, Walford, and even Will Tye to either one of the Texans’ tight ends.
New York Jets receiver target distribution against Seattle Seahawks Week 4.