The Buffalo Bills are set to host the Houston Texans. Bills fans won’t get to see Tyrod Taylor, he of “helped the Bills end the playoff drought” fame. Instead, Houston will be starting Davis Mills, he of “no connection to the Bills so there’s zero chance Frazier/McDermott will take any pity on him” fame. I contemplated taking a look at Mills this week, but what would I say other than “he looks like a rookie about to start in his second game in the NFL.” I thought it might be better to take a look at the Houston ground game, which they should be expected to lean on to help their young signal caller.
The first thing I want to note is that there’s absolutely some talent in the run game. The Texans create a wide lane for this rush, but they make it a two-way road. This has heavy potential to be dead in the water but a little wiggle from David Johnson puts this back onto the positive side of the ledger.
The highlighted slide isn’t great as the quick push by the Cleveland Browns defender pushes the run to the right and narrows even that lane. A decent lead block opens up some space, but the Browns have made enough of a wall to stop this before it goes too far. It’s positive yards though.
This is kind of like Play 1 but the lane is a little too narrow to escape. The inability for anyone to slow down the meteor streaking down the middle of the field is a pretty big deal too.
I spent some time before Tyrod Taylor exited with an injury to show the Houston game at their peak. With Taylor on the field, the Browns were still run-focused but not like what you see here. The already inconsistent victories on the line become harder to find when they bring everyone [cue Gary Oldman GIF from Léon: The Professional].
Again, there’s some talent to display. The blocking provides some narrow lanes for Mark Ingram who chooses arguably the best option available to him and makes himself small to get a good gain.
Even though this doesn’t look like the Carolina Panthers are selling out on the run at first, they really are. The whole team looks prepared to respond to a rusher. And they do. When the entire team swarms to the ball like this it’s because they were all staring at it.
Does it sound like I’m a bit down on the Houston running game? The stats back it up. Houston is tied with the Los Angeles Rams for the second-least efficient team on the ground this year, averaging 3.3 yards per carry (only 0.1 ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers). It isn’t for lack of trying either. They have the tenth-most (high average per my rule of four) attempts so far this year.
Some of this is almost certainly due to not having their starting quarterback for 50 percent of their young season. I don’t expect the Bills to miss out on this top-secret information either as they’ll also likely commit to stopping the run. If you’re curious, right now Buffalo has the seventh-best run defense when it comes to yards per attempt, allowing 3.4 ypc. So far they’ve handled the worst (Pitt, as noted above), and two average teams in Washington and Miami.