The Houston Texans are 2-0 this season, which shouldn't be a surprise considering their two games were at home against beatable opponents in the Bears and Chiefs. But it's how the Texans won those games that has them positioned as an AFC force to be reckoned with out of the gates.
Specifically, the Texans have put up yards and points utilizing a deep-passing attack that they didn't possess last year. The traditional numbers don't bear out a more explosive offense two games into 2016. In fact, on the surface it looks like almost the exact same offense Bill O'Brien's team had in 2015.
But this team is poised to become a more explosive unit, in large part to the pieces it added in the offseason. Two of those pieces -- Lamar Miller and Will Fuller -- are serious breakaway-speed threats, capable of hitting home runs.
Miller has served as a workhorse for the Texans through two games, but has minimal explosion. Fuller, on the other hand, is helping the Texans to stretch the field vertically. Combined with the big arm of Brock Osweiler and the freedom allowed by having all-world receiver DeAndre Hopkins on the other side of the field, Fuller has opened things up in a big way for Houston already this year.
According to data from Pro Football Focus, the Texans are already on pace to shatter their deep throwing numbers from last year. "Deep attempts" qualify as any target more than 20 yards down the field, and the accuracy percentage includes drops (not just completions).
|Year||Deep Attempts||Deep Completions||Yards||TDs||Attempt %||Accuracy %|
So basically what you have here is a spike in the shots down the field. The Texans are looking deep 20 percent of the time through two games under Osweiler, versus 13 percent of the time last year with Brian Hoyer.
The pace here is blasting what Hoyer put together and through two games Osweiler doesn't have an interception on a deep ball (Hoyer had five last year).
He could have additional touchdowns were it not for some drop issues and weird NFL rules.
Part of the drop factor comes with the territory on Will Fuller, however. It's just the type of game he plays. But that speed is something else. Fuller went deep against two of the better defensive backs in the league, Chiefs corner Marcus Peters and KC safety Eric Berry.
And Osweiler was able to put the ball in a perfect position.
And yes, he almost dropped the ball.
The concerning aspect of what happened after this play is when, because Fuller bobbled the ball and didn't score, the Texans were forced to run plays in the red zone, and Osweiler threw an ugly pick. There's a the "good Brock" that can heave the ball down the field with substantially better accuracy than any other quarterback O'Brien's had in Houston. Then there's the "bad Brock" that throw picks in really unnecessary spots. The difference against a Bill Belichick-coached defense will be fascinating to watch on Thursday.
Fuller isn't the only guy Osweiler is targeting down the field either. He's very wisely willing to chuck the ball up to DeAndre Hopkins as well.
You'll notice a lack of Peters at the end of this play -- he veered away from Hopkins to avoid getting a pass-interference call (and apparently believing that Hopkins was guilty of offensive PI).
But Osweiler was throwing well before any potential interference occurred.
Nothing wrong with that. Hopkins isn't a straight burner, but the more opportunities you give him to win one-on-one matchups, the better off the Texans offense will be in terms of generating explosive plays.
It's also possible Osweiler should have better stats than he already does because of one such matchup. Late in the second quarter, Osweiler was facing a ton of pressure from Dee Ford, but chucked the ball up into the end zone anyway.
Thankfully he has an incredible receiver in Hopkins who made an incredible catch.
Unfortunately for Osweiler and the Texans, the referees ruled this was NOT A CATCH. Houston challenged it and it was still overturned. CBS Sports Spero Dedes mentioned on the broadcast he received a text from NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino, with Blandino saying it was too close to overturn.
Let's zoom and enhance.
What more do you want, NFL? He caught the ball with two hands. He possessed the ball while having both knees in bounds. He went to the ground and didn't lose control of the ball.
This should have been a touchdown. By all obvious and rational reason it was a score. So of course it was ruled incomplete.
But the point remains: Osweiler and Hopkins/Fuller can push the ball down the field. They've made a point of including the deep threat in their first two games, and it shouldn't slow down this season.
It's a different aspect of this offense and while Osweiler is far from a perfect quarterback, he's also far more capable of ripping off big throws than any of his predecessors.
The new Texans are still getting acclimated to one another and they're dealing with lots of offensive line attrition early. If this unit starts to really click, it could be scary. At the very least you know it's going to be explosive.