There is one thing I have always loved about Gary Kubiak. His use of tight ends in the red zone, more specifically in the end zone. I already had a hunch that his tight ends had more touchdowns than Andre Johnson during Kubiak’s time here. I was right and it has become even more pronounced in recent years. Check out this chart.
Since Gary Kubiak took over, other wide receivers have 46 touchdown receptions and the group of tight ends have 54 TD receptions. Andre Johnson has 44. He has obviously missed some game which has slightly impacting these numbers. However he was healthy last year and has only missed a handful of plays this year, yet he has 4 touchdowns, while the tight ends have 17. It’s almost assuredly going to be the 3rd straight season tight ends have 10 or more touchdowns – and that s something Andre Johnson has never done.
But this really shouldn’t be considered a problem, especially this year as the Texans are perfect converting in the red zone. They’ve made seven trips to the red zone and they’ve scored seven touchdowns. The first touchdown they scored last week is a great example of how Johnson helps this team, even when he’s not a real target.
Situation: 1st quarter: 12:36 left, 2nd and goal from the 1.
It’s the opening drive of the game and the Texans have already marched 79 yards down the field on just 4 plays – all runs including Ben Tate’s 60 yard scamper down the sidelines.So take a look at how they set the Titans defense up to lose the only real target Matt Schaub will have on this play.
The Texans are in a bunch formation with a personnel group they use a ton. Tight Ends on both sides of the line, with Johnson lined up just off Garrett Graham’s right hip. Matt Schaub takes the snap w/ FB Greg Jones lead blocking for Arian Foster. He fakes the handoff to Foster as Johnson makes a path for the back corner of the endzone. Watch ho the defense re-acts in the next photo.
There are 6 Titans in the box and every one of them is focused on Foster launching himself over the line. Of course he doesn’t have the ball. Jones is about to engage the linebacker and Graham is still holding his bloc on the end. You see both Titans safeties are locked in on Johnson, ready to follow him to the back off the endzone.
Both safeties, now in pursuit of Johnson have their back turned to the play and their back turned to Graham, who lets his man go and will be all alone for the easy touchdown. Note Owen Daniels release on the opposite side.
Look how wide open he is. Wide open. In the red zone. Perfect execution and the defense reacts exactly as they hope and expect them to. If their defensive end, Ropati Pitoitua, holds up Graham or sniffs out the play somehow, Daniels flares out on the opposite side and provides a reasonable secondary target.
Over the last few years of Schaub and Kubiak running the offense, I’ve been amazed at how many times, they get players – especially tight ends – absolutely wide open al over the field. Running so many different plays out of the same looks is what keys it all. Plus the experience level on their offense is outstanding. They shuffle fullbacks in and out the last few years, but 3 years or more for nearly the entire rest of the offense.
– Wex (@awexler)