Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

19 Oct 2006

Mario Williams, defensive back

You may have read my article on the Arizona offensive line, breaking down each play of the final 10 minutes to figure out what went wrong Monday night. But that's not the only game I broke down on tape this week. It's not even the only game with a horrible offensive line. I also charted the first half of Dallas-Houston for our game charting project, and I wanted to share a few thoughts on the Texans.

He wasn't as bad as Reggie Wells, but one offensive lineman stood out in the Houston plays I watched, and that was left guard Chester Pitts. Two examples: On one early run, Chris Canty did a swim move to go right past him and stuff Ron Dayne for no gain. On a third-and-4 pass with 13:50 left in Q2, Pitts fell down trying to block.

The zone blocking thing isn't working for Houston because the idea of zone blocking is that somewhere along that line there is going to be a hole to cut through. But the Houston line was just constantly overwhelmed by the Dallas defense, and there were no holes. The tight ends aren't very good at blocking either. And Dayne isn't helping things. He has a hard time finding the hole unless it is right in front of him, and when it is right there, there's no burst through the hole. When Dallas had the ball, Julius Jones would get a small hole but he'd shoot right through it and get yardage.

As far as Houston's defense, Mario Williams actually seems to be better as a run stopper than he is as a pass rusher. On one play (4:49 left Q1) he just destroyed Marc Colombo and tackled Jones for a one-yard loss. On another play (12:51 left Q2), Marion Barber was going around left end. Mario Williams, over on the right, tossed aside Jason Witten, crossed all the way behind the line, and came up behind Barber to take him down after a three-yard gain.

The other weird thing about the Houston defense is how often they drop Williams into coverage. On the first Dallas drive of the second quarter, the Texans ran zone blitzes on four straight plays! Williams and Anthony Weaver would drop into coverage, then N.D. Kalu would drop into coverage, then just Williams, and so on. It was very strange. Is Williams supposed to have Julius Peppers-like versatility as a pass defender?

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 19 Oct 2006