2020 Game Analysis Week 1 Texans @ Chiefs (by Ross Jacobs)
Ross Jacobs has been an FFM correspondent on NFL games and NFL Draft matters for the past few years. He is going to be writing up some of his notes on various games he’s watching/studying this year. Typically, he will have written/submitted his work before mine, so this is a look at the same game with different eyes...and you can compare and contrast or find some new takeaways.
-This was a strong start for the defending champion Chiefs. The final score was 34-20 but it wasn't that close. The Chiefs manhandled the Texans all game and only gave up a couple of late garbage scores. They could easily have scored 50 if they hadn't slowed down with the running game. They moved up and down the field at will, and the Texans seemed powerless to even slow them down.
We didn't see the explosive passing attack we're used to, and although the announcers kept harping on the additions of offensive guard Osemele and rookie running back Edwards-Helaire, the running game probably isn't that much improved over last year. Don't forget how efficient Damien Williams was as the starter for the Chiefs in the playoffs and Superbowl last year. The reason the Chiefs didn't run much last year was because they needed Mahomes to keep throwing to keep them in games. They couldn't afford to run.
Here the Chiefs defense managed to harass Deshaun Watson all night and give them a big lead which allowed Andy Reid to pound Edwards-Helaire into a helpless Texans defense dropping defenders into coverage for fear of getting beat over the top by Mahomes. The game plan looked like a return to Andy Reid's days with the Eagles where he ran a quick rhythm, ball control passing game with Donovan McNabb. It's possible we won't see the huge yardage numbers for Mahomes every week this year as the Chiefs now seem comfortable leaning on their running game to help take pressure off their star QB. Unfortunately for defenses though that means the Chiefs are fully capable of switching tactics at will and can find any weakness and exploit it. They can run, throw short, and obviously throw deep with all their speed. This offense is a juggernaut and teams are going to have a hard time keeping up. The only thing that can slow them down is conservative play calling. We'll see if Reid is still willing to let Mahomes loose when he needs to or if he's committed to running the ball no matter what. I hope they didn't just pay Mahomes a half billion dollars to turn him into a game manager. He's the most dangerous weapon the NFL has ever seen, and no matter how good your running game is the ball needs to be in his hands.
-The Chiefs defense looked pretty decent at first glance, but I'm not convinced this is a drastically improved group. The run defense looked just as poor as last year until they built a big lead and the Texans were forced to abandon the run. Before that David Johnson was gashing them. And the pass defense isn't getting any better with starter Bashaud Breeland serving a 4 game suspension and Charvarius Ward injuring his hand. Rookie L'Jarius Sneed held up pretty well considering the circumstances, but he'll be tested against much better receivers than the Texans currently have. The one strength of the Chiefs defense is their pass rush, and boy is it strong. Frank Clark and Chris Jones are one of the best duos in the league. Jones in particular is an absolute terror and routinely abused the interior of the Texans offensive line.
-The announcers talked a lot about the loss of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but that wasn't the Texans problem here. The offensive line simply couldn't handle Clark and Jones, but most teams don't have two guys like that. I think the Texans line will be fine going forward because 2019 acquisition Laremy Tunsil was a rock on the left side. If Watson gets more time to throw the offense will be ok despite losing Hopkins.
It's obvious that the much maligned trade for running back David Johnson isn't the travesty everyone painted it as. Watson is fully capable of distributing the ball to a variety of receivers instead of peppering just one, and Johson himself looks completely healthy for the first time in 4 years. He should be the focal point of the offense moving forward, especially if backup Duke Johnson is out for an extended period of time. If Duke can return quickly the Texans would do well to get both guys onto the field at the same time in a variety of looks as both have excellent hands and can be spread out to play wide receiver. That package would keep defenses off balance because it would be tough to defend all the various possible threats, and it plays right into Deshaun Watson's strengths.
-Hard to glean anything from the Texans defense here. They couldn't slow the Chiefs at all, and they never had a chance to get to Mahomes as the ball was out of his hands almost instantly. Luckily for them they don't have to face the league's best offense every week.
-Low yardage total for Mahomes but incredibly efficient and still lots of TD's. That might be a pattern moving forward, but I wouldn't worry. They won't be able to control the game like this every week.
-Sammy Watkins benefited but can't be counted on as an every week start. He still disappears too often and next week it will be Robinson or Hardman piling up numbers.
-Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are still the alpha dog receivers.
-Clyde Edwards-Helaire piled up 25 carries but isn't getting that workload every week. One concerning note I had was how often he came out on 3rd down. Perhaps that changes as the year wears on, but as of now I don't think they trust him to block for Mahomes, instead preferring the veteran presence of Darrel Williams. Other than that CEH looked quick and powerful, kind of like Maurice Jones-Drew in his heyday.
-Deshaun Watson got his garbage time numbers as usual. He should be fine this year although the TD number might tick down just a bit without a dedicated red zone threat.
-David Johnson looked absolutely fantastic, quick and powerful. They need to get him more involved in the passing game, but if you can grab him at a reasonable price this week I would, especially if Duke Johnson is going to be out. David was by far the better runner and obviously the Texans best skill position player. He only got 11 carries because the team fell behind. Look for bigger numbers most weeks. If he stays healthy I don't see how he doesn't finish as a top 6 RB this year.
-Will Fuller somehow managed 8 catches for 120 yards, but don't go running off a cliff thinking he's replacing all of Hopkins' production. The Chiefs were down both starting corners for most of the game. Fuller will have to prove himself against better competition before he can be trusted as an every week starter.