The Different Faces of James Casey
When it comes to talking about Houston Texans’ fullback James Casey, his true position as a player is up for debate. Considered the starting fullback and the second tight end in the “Tiger” formation, according to Head Coach Gary Kubiak, he has more importance to the Texans’ offense than fans realize.
After Casey missed a few games after hurting his pectoral against the Oakland Raiders on the punt coverage team, it took about four to five games for Casey to regain his full strength. Casey by the time he returned was replaced by Lawrence Vickers at fullback, and he never really received the snaps he needed to make a difference in the Texans’ offense. Before the pectoral injury, Kubiak realized what he had in Casey and at fullback he provided enough lead blocking for Arian Foster and Ben Tate for opposing teams to respect him at that position.
With Casey being an adequate enough lead blocker, he opened a new door for the Texans’ offense and turned them into an even more dangerous offense. It is hard to look at the numbers clearly but Andre Johnson went out in week 4 and Casey went out in week 5, clearly Matt Schaub’s most favorite targets to start the season. Take a look.
We used all games Matt Schaub was a part of and the difference without Casey in the offense.
Weeks 1-5 (260 total plays)
398.6 yards per game | 7.7 yards per play | 62 % Run Plays| 38 % Pass Plays
Weeks 6-10 (275 total plays)
393.8 yards per game | 7.2 yards per play | 71 % Run Plays | 29 % Pass Plays
With all of the talk about Casey being an important part of the offense, he seems to be more of a decoy at times to manipulate the defense. Kubiak used Casey to dictate what he was going to get from the defense and Casey was a part of the Texans base package which only made the Texans that much more dangerous as an offense. Like we said earlier, Casey being able to hold his own as a blocker makes the Texans base offensive package that much better.
Texans base personnel offensive package from 2011
RB: Arian Foster or Ben Tate
FB: James Casey
TE: Owen Daniels or Joel Dreessen
WR: Andre Johnson
WR: Kevin Walter or Jacoby Jones
If you are able to go to an NFL game, the defense substitutes personnel depending on who is in the game for the Texans. Looking at the Texans base offensive personnel (above), Casey is able to make defenses wary of who to send out because he can line up at so many different positions for the Texans. Take a look.
Texans Base Personnel with Casey
Casey is lined up at the traditional fullback position. Run or pass can happen from this formation.
Casey is lined up in the slot between Daniels and Walter. With that, he pulls #51 out of the box and the Texans run to the short side of the field here, away from Casey.
This is where the fun begins. Casey starts wide and motions towards the formation and the ball is snapped when he gets to the formation. Covered by a smaller defensive back, the Texans opt for the bootleg towards Casey. Casey runs a quick out pattern but shows the Texans versatility, offensively.
Look above this clip, it is the same formation but Casey motions back into the formation to the fullback position. Casey lead blocks in this situation for Foster. Same formation, different look and play.
Base personnel again and Casey is lined up wide. Smaller defensive back on him, but they respect him as a wide receiver. So much that the Colts leave Andre Johnson covered with a linebacker. Early in the season, but mismatches are everywhere for the Texans. In this play, the Texans run the ball to Casey’s side, Johnson is big enough to wall off #51 and the smaller defensive back gets walked back by the bigger Casey.
Texans base offensive package once again, same personnel but Tate motions to the left to line up wide. Casey is lined up as wing to the right and actually runs an out pattern. When Tate started in the backfield, the Texans looked like a run formation, now with the empty look Casey goes from fullback to slot wide receiver matched up against a linebacker.
Other Casey Variations (Not Base Personnel)
Texans came out empty with Casey motioning to Johnson’s side. Out of the slot, the Texans run a tunnel screen to Johnson with Casey bringing the hat to the corner covering Johnson. It was a key third down and opened the lane for Johnson to truck Malcolm Jenkins for a key first down.
Casey is lined up to the right of Schaub and on the same side of Johnson. Johnson runs a drag route across the defense and the defense chases him leaving Casey by himself against a linebacker caught up in traffic. Some 62 yards later, Casey’s reception sets up the Texans for some points.
The Texans do this well and with all three tight ends in at once, Casey is a tight end covered by a linebacker. The three tight end set is lined up against a defensive back covering up Daniels, a linebacker outside of Casey and a safety over the top of all three. Run or pass, the Texans can still make it happen from this formation.
Casey is being used as a wide receiver in this formation, after he motions across the formation. He is used to open up the middle for Owen Daniels’ opening touchdown reception against the Saints. Bringing Casey over creates the mismatch for Daniels against a linebacker. The mismatch occurs when everyone has to shift coverage to respect Casey’s motion.
The Texans throw the Saints a curve-ball here. The Saints are expecting Casey to motion out, but he doesn’t. He gets a pitch to the right for a key first down.
Casey also plays the personal protector on punts. Against Oakland is how he hurt his pectoral when tackling someone on a punt. Maybe the Texans will think twice in using him here next season.
Casey is a serious weapon for the Texans and has been used as a fullback, h-back, tight end, running back and wide receiver. His ability to play all of these positions make the offense multi-dimensional in their base personnel offensively. Think about when Lawrence Vickers took over when Casey went out. Vickers played behind the offensive line and never lined up as a pass catching threat. Even though being an above average run blocker, Vickers doesn’t provide what Casey does when he is on the field.
Having Casey will open up the offense more during the 2012 season. He will have to improve his run blocking game but he has all the skills to be an impact player for the Texans. His stat sheet may not be full but like you saw above, his presence on the field makes every offensive skill player that much more dangerous. The majority of the Texans’ offensive players line up in their respective position, but Casey is all over the field and can handle what it thrown at him. Casey is learning the fullback position, plus all of the others we have named, and does it well.
The more weapons on the field the better for the offense, and Casey is exactly that, a weapon.
You can follow Patrick on Twitter. He is the Editor of State of the Texans and is a draft analyst on Sideline Scouting.