Houston Texans 2013 Season Preview: Why the Zone-Blocking Scheme Will Be Key

Jake Lapin@lapin_62094Correspondent IJuly 7, 2013

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 19:  Quarterback Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans drops back to pass as the offensive line works against the Detroit Lions at Reliant Stadium on October 19, 2008 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Houston Texans have established themselves as a top-tier team in the NFL, but they have not taken that extra step forward as a franchise just yet.

As the 2013 season approaches, the Texans are the AFC South favorites once again and might even have what it takes to go all the way. To take that next step, the zone-blocking scheme that they implement on offense will be crucial for them to win in the playoffs and make it to the Super Bowl.

The Texans have a precise game plan each week. Houston likes to shorten the game by running the ball. With a good defense and an excellent running game led by Arian Foster, the Texans are tough to beat. When the run game is working, Houston excels.

When opposing defenses stack the box, the Texans use the play-action pass to outsmart the defense and complete the long pass. Matt Schaub is an elite quarterback when it comes to the play action, and he typically makes the smart decision with the football. 

The Texans have utilized the play action the past few seasons when their running game has been top notch. This past season, however, the running game was less effective than usual.

Foster had a solid year, but the team running game was not as dominant as it had been in seasons prior. The biggest reason for that is probably all of the shuffling around on the offensive line. Due to free agency and injuries, the Texans had to bring in some new faces on the right side to block this past year.

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The Houston offense uses a specific zone-blocking scheme, which is broken down and then shown in motion in these videos, and it takes time for the offensive line to learn how to play together. This blocking scheme gives versatile running backs such as Foster the space necessary to get up the field and beyond the defense.

Since the O-line has now played together for an entire year, the linemen should be more adept at the scheme and provide Foster more room to work with in the backfield.

During Foster's best season in 2010 when he led the league in rushing, he had fullback Vonta Leach in front of him leading the charge. This past season, the Texans' starting fullback was James Casey, who is not a natural fullback.

This summer, the Texans added fullback Greg Jones, who is a much better replacement for Leach and can give Foster more room to operate.

Here is a video from Lance Zierlein, a sports radio personality in Houston, showing plays where the defense breaks up zone blocking. In the plays where the scheme does not work, the iffy offensive line does not properly implement the zone blocking, as Zierlein explains.

The O-line’s woes and the lack of a true fullback were big reasons why the running game struggled last season, but there were other factors as well. 

Part of the Texans’ game plan is to claim an early lead, and then they start to wear the other team down with the running game while taking time off the clock. This past year, however, the Texans found themselves trying to come from behind too often.

When the Texans need to make up a deficit, they have to throw the ball much more than they would like.

Coach Gary Kubiak’s offense is centered around a solid run game, which leads to the effective play action. If the run game never gets going, the play action is less likely to work, and the Texans are forced to play outside of their comfort zone without their trusted game plan.

The zone-blocking scheme is so important to their success because it is how they carry out their game plan each week. The blocking has to be effective for the rest of the game plan to fall into place.

Without effective blocking, the run game disappears and the play action with it. The game plan for the Texans each week depends on the success of the zone blocking, and that is why it will play such a drastic role in the upcoming season for the Texans.


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