Miami Dolphins v. Houston Texans Game Review
Preseason Game 2 in the books.
Hey everyone TC here,
If you are a new subscriber to the Cap & Trade Newsletter, welcome! This newsletter covers the NFL salary cap and news across the league with additional coverage of the Houston Texans. I have been covering the Houston Texans since 2012 and 2017 as credentialed media, and have been working at OverTheCap.com for the past 7 years. I hope you find this newsletter informative and digestible. I do subscribe to a number of paywall-type websites for data sourcing and aggregation, but always looking for more sources. While this newsletter remains free, you can activate a paid subscription to assist in making this newsletter even better:
A return to reality for the Houston Texans with a thumping by the visiting team Miami Dolphins, with a final score 28-3. A game that saw Houston’s win probability above 0% for approximately 4 minutes and 15 seconds into the game.
There were some positives in this game, let’s not forget that.
This week’s newsletter will focus primarily on the first half with the video review to cover the primary starters and rotational players.
Today’s game was the classic butt whooping this team probably needed. Surrendering 205 rushing yards, with 140 of those yards occurring in the first half, will likely be the talking point for head coach Demeco Ryans in review meetings.
The defense, again, remained vanilla for the majority of their looks. Working in a zone coverage scheme on 61% of the dropbacks. The single high safety look continued again with a high usage rate of 77.4%. With Matt Burke calling plays again, the team broke out a Cover 0 look just once. Again, pretty vanilla stuff just as we witnessed in the first preseason game. Stunt usage was down this week compared to what we saw against New England.
Houston’s offense finished the game with 186 total net yards, with a brutal 16.7% third down conversion rate (2 for 12). The offense worked primarily out of “11 personnel” against Miami, at 72.9% usage. The remaining plays were in “12 personnel” with the exception of a lone 13 personnel look. Our weekly reminder this is counting Andrew Beck as a tight end.
Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud showed strong improvement over his first preseason performance; working out of the shotgun 57% of his dropbacks. Stroud played the entire first half finishing 7/12 with 60 yards passing.
The positive things to note for Stroud: 1) Under pressure only twice on 12 dropbacks. 2) Zero sacks. 3) Improved time to throw, clocking in at 2.36 seconds (the number was 2.90 seconds against New England). Despite those improvements there are a few plays Stroud would like to have back.
Miscommunication Between Stroud and Schultz
After a Denzel Perryman interception to start the game, the Texans were in prime position for a quick touchdown. Starting at the Miami 7 yard line, Houston used two rush attempts with Dameon Pierce to get the ball down to the 1 yard line. Only to follow that up with a Stroud delay of game, and then a miscommunication with tight end Dalton Schultz on what would have been an easy touchdown. It is unclear who was in the wrong on this play, but let’s take a look.
Houston was in a 2x2 receiver set after Schultz motioned to the left side as an inline tight end. Woods, lined up as the X receiver, will attempt to take his defender (CB Igbinoghene) to rub into the safety (S Elliot) to allow an open flat route for Schultz. This was relatively successful giving Stroud an easy look to Schultz for what would have been a touchdown. Schultz stopped the route, with Stroud anticipating Schultz continuing the route to the boundary. Miami was in man coverage with a Cover 1 look.
Stroud Starting to Cook
With Houston’s second offensive drive we start to see CJ Stroud’s comfort level increase. The team started with a confidence building quick pass to Nico Collins coming off an orbit motion for 7 yards. Followed by a 7 yard gain by Pierce on a nice rush behind Kenyon Green and Juice Scruggs, forcing a missed tackle along the way.
On the next play (below) Miami is showing Stroud a 2 high look with a cover 6 (or quarters maybe?) zone look. CB Howard giving Collins a nice 9.7 yard cushion at snap allowing Collins to make a quick inside line into his in-route. Fortunately the safety (Holland) had his eyes on Stroud and does not see the quick decision in time for a pass break-up. Collins finishes with a nice spin move to gain a few extra yards.
The next play OC Slowik calls in a play action bootleg creating a “throw on the run” situation for Stroud. Houston brings in a true 12 personnel with Schultz and Quitoriano doubled up on the right edge. Miami stays in man coverage with a single high safety look, with a 7 defender box.
Noah Brown, lined up next to Robert Woods, gets a solid release on CB Kohou on a crossing route in an opposite flow from the offensive line. Stroud makes an excellent touch throw on the run with DE Ogbah bearing down on him.
The part of this execution I really like with Stroud is he gets his head turned around quickly to get his eyes downfield. Play action that puts the quarterback’s back towards to the defense can be tricky for a rookie.
Two plays later we see Stroud’s quick processing with an unblocked defensive end quickly in his face. During training camp, Stroud has exhibited sluggishness in processing this type of situation. The work pays off as Stroud gets to his hot route read with Schultz for a short gain rather than take the sack.
I do have a question on this play, reply in the comments with your feedback. Was RT Fant expecting Schultz to chip on his way out? Fant had his eyes on LB Baker the entire time. Leaving Ogbah with a free run at Stroud.
This drive continued with another dime by Stroud. This was fun to watch as Stroud’s confidence grew with each pass attempt.
Here we see Houston with “11 personnel” with trips left consisting of Woods, Schultz, and Brown. Brown was on the right side, but motioned over to create the trips look. Miami appears to be a 2 high safety shell look with CB Howard pressing Collins at the X. Stroud in the shotgun again.
Now watch Stroud here. 5 step down and releasing this ball just as Woods right foot hits the ground to flatten out towards the boundary. Exceptional timing. The ball placement is perfect giving Woods plenty of space to execute the catch. I’ve watched this play over and over, and I liked it.
Oh and check out Kenyon Green picking up the stunt defender looping around. Great recognition. Green quietly had a solid game.
And lastly…just for fun. Let’s all watch Juice Scruggs take LB Duke Riley for a pancake ride. The camera feed stops but I can confirm Riley was displeased with Scruggs’ finishing move here.
Disappointing Defensive Work
Yes we need to mention some of the bad work. Can’t be all roses after a 28-3 loss. Two areas of concern on the defense that stood out to me was tackling in the secondary and lane recognition with the linebackers.
On this play we see indecision by LB Perryman on the flow of the runningback followed by the 2022 S Pitre shoulder tackle attempt. A play that had an expected 5 yards rushing, that turned into 16 yards.
Houston was in a single high cover 3 zone look with their nickel package. Miami continues with motion with Hill to get the defense shifting their looks. DT Lopez gets doubled up allowing the C Williams to quickly get to the second level causing Perryman’s indecision.
Side note, Hughes was lucky he escaped injury with the low cut block by Smythe.
Next play I wanted to look was the Mostert touchdown. If my read on this play is incorrect please let me know in the comments.
Miami brings in their “21 personnel” with Mostert next to Tua in shotgun to the strong side. Houston still working in their nickel package.
The lack of a WR on the strong side brings CB Nelson into the box behind DE Martin. DT Collins slides further inside to what looks like a 2 technique over the guard. Martin is lined up over TE Kroft.
Martin loses the rep against TE Kroft with a complete loss of edge contain. Nelson and Pitre both make an incorrect read getting crashed down by the additional pulling tight end. Leaving a walk in effort for Mostert.
I realize Jacob Martin is a small size defensive end, but losing like this to a tight end is rough. Martin needs to get the TE turned inside to shed and hold edge contain. Pitre would have been in position to cover that inside lane if Mostert were to take that path instead of bouncing outside.
Overall the defensive line was mid (young kid term). Miami’s offensive line was successful in getting front line players shut out with turning shoulders and kick outs. Linebackers were having difficulty diagnosing the run lanes, and defensive back tackling was suspect.
Conversely the pass rush again was solid for Houston. Solid pressure from Will Anderson, Jon Greenard, and Sheldon Rankins.
Interesting Game Stats & Thoughts
To finish out this review, and trust me I could go on and on. Below are some game stats and thoughts I found interesting.
Khalil Davis quickly made his name known as competition to Kurt Hinnish for a reserve DT role. Davis finished the game with two QB hits and two run stuffs.
Steven Nelson showed up in the 0 target club yet again, per NGS. PFF charged Nelson with a target on a pass behind the LOS. Nelson just keeps doing his thing.
Houston dialed up 6 rushers twice and 7 rushers once, generating a QB pressure on all 3 plays.
Houston’s man coverage efforts, on 38% of snaps, yielded a nice -7.8 CPOE (completion percentage over expectation), with a 54.5% allowed completion rate.
Miami finding ways to match SWR Berrios against a LB was brutal to watch. Three of Berrios’ receptions came with Perryman or To’oTo’o in coverage.
Stroud finished with zero “turn over worthy” throws per PFF.
I can’t find anything positive in the rushing stat area…sorry it was not pretty.
Overall the starting offensive line held up generating a clean pocket for Stroud.
Unfortunately I won’t be making the trek to New Orleans for joint practice. I will refer you toby Cody Stoots for all the details from joint practices with the New Orleans Saints.
Thanks again for the support, especially those who have upgraded to a paid subscription.
Cap & Trade is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.