Changing plays at the line: Matt Schaub, Chris Myers talk audibles

One of the off-season discussions this year by both some fans and media is how Gary Kubiak should give more power to Matt Schaub to change out of plays at the line of scrimmage to take advantage of defenses.

It isn’t a criticism I’ve understood given the nature of the offense the Texans run. Schaub does have the power to switch plays at the line, it is just that it isn’t done with the obviousness and gyrations that some quarterbacks do.

Don’t believe me? Given that this was a common off-season topic, I asked both center Chris Myers and quarterback Matt Schaub about this on pre-camp media day so you could hear it straight from them.

I wish you could watch the video of the Q&A because neither one wanted to explain this in a way that might give opponents an advantage. In particular, Myers thought I was trying to get him to give up secrets, but really I just wanted an explanation for fans because I know this is a common topic. But this is what they felt comfortable saying:

Myers: “I’m not going to explain how we handle audibling at the line, but nice try there. That’s the way it works in the NFL. Some teams and some quarterbacks are given that opportunity because there teams offenses are based upon them going to the line and having six different plays possible then they just give the line and the rest of offense what they are going to do. In our scheme, Matt doesn’t necessarily have to do that all the time. You guys may not notice, but we audible a lot. You guys may not notice and talk about it all the time because you guys don’t notice it. It’s one of the things that come with the territory. It’s a smooth transition for us with the zone blocking scheme and with the rollouts that we have that Matt’s been able to run. We don’t have to audible as much because we have the potential for other things to happen. Our audibles aren’t the same as other teams, but we get it done just as much as they do. Everyone talking about how they need to put more pressure on Matt and how he needs to take on more of the offense. It’s there, you guys just don’t notice.”

Schaub: “If I explain what we do too much, then other teams are understanding it too. We’re glad that no one out there really knows what we’re doing. We do have a built-in system but it’s something that we do at the line of scrimmage that is not as dramatic as some teams do. We do it about 30 percent of the game. We have two or maybe three plays at the line of scrimmage and then we go from there. It’s all based on what the defense is doing. Sometimes it’s run to run, run to pass, it can be any one of those things, but it’s all predicated on the defense.”

So there you go. If they told you how it was done, they would have to kill you.

Yes, some teams’ schemes mean that they dramatically change plays. And they may change plays to a larger part of their playbook. With the Texans scheme in particular, since so much of it is from formations where run and pass are intended to look the same, they usually don’t want to be obvious in play changing. Non-obvious audibles isn’t an unusual thing in the NFL either, but appears to be a pet issue of some.

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