Houston Texans

Texans' moves with Bill O'Brien, Jack Easterby likely close door on Patriots' Nick Caserio to Houston

Texans' moves with Bill O'Brien, Jack Easterby likely close door on Patriots' Nick Caserio to Houston

It appears the Houston Texans pursuit of Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, which led to New England filing tampering charges against Houston last offseason, is over.

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The Texans have promoted coach Bill O'Brien to general manager and Jack Easterby, the former character coach with the Patriots, has been given the title of executive vice president of football operations.

The Texans operated without an official GM last season after they sought Caserio for the vacant position. The Patriots reportedly used photos and video of Easterby, who had been the Patriots character coach for six seasons, interacting with Caserio at the Super Bowl ring ceremony in June, as evidence of tampering.

The tampering charges were dropped a few days later after Houston withdrew its pursuit of Caserio, New England's director of player personnel since 2008, whose contract is up after the 2020 NFL Draft.  

NFL rumors: Contract talks between Patriots, Nick Caserio 'have gotten nowhere'

NFL rumors: Contract talks between Patriots, Nick Caserio 'have gotten nowhere'

Nick Caserio has served as director of player personnel for the New England Patriots since 2008, but he might have a new title and a new team next season.

Caserio's contract expires after the 2019 campaign, and if he's not re-signed by the Patriots, multiple teams reportedly are expected to show interest.

NFL Media's Mike Garafolo reported Sunday morning an update on the contract talks between Caserio and the Patriots.

“The Patriots have tried to broach the possibility of an extension, and from what I gather, have gotten nowhere with it,” Garafolo said Sunday on NFL Network. “So, he is going to be on the market as a GM. I’m thinking he gets a job elsewhere.”

If Caserio does leave the Patriots, which teams will show interest in him? CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora on Sunday morning reported two teams, the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers. His note on the Panthers is particularly interesting:

Panthers owner David Tepper wants to speak to several coaches and executives who have ties to the Patriots organization as well, sources said, with Caserio a strong candidate to oversee personnel in Carolina as well. 

The Texans have pursued Caserio in the past, and the Patriots even filed tampering charges against Houston (the charges were later dropped by New England) earlier this year. He obviously knows Texans head coach Bill O'Brien well from their days together in New England.

Caserio is in his 17th season with the Patriots and 15th in player personnel. He's been a valuable member of the Patriots' front office and has contributed to the team consistently building championship-caliber rosters through the trade market, free agency and the draft.

The Patriots have dealt with members of their coaching staff and front office leaving for rival teams many times over the past 20 years, but Caserio is a pretty important part of the organization. His loss wouldn't be a small one.

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Copycat Texans: How Ravens helped hand Patriots another loss to take over No. 1 seed

Copycat Texans: How Ravens helped hand Patriots another loss to take over No. 1 seed

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick knows it's coming. He might not know exactly how or when. But he knows it's coming.

There's going to be a play or two or more that pop up over the course of a given game that his team has seen before — a play that maybe his team has had trouble defending in the past. And Belichick knows they'll have to be ready for it.

"We see, I would say, copycat plays every week," Belichick told WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria" program this week. "Some teams are more of a copycat team than another. Some teams will just kind of stick to their system. Everybody does that to a degree. There are some plays that are repeat plays from an earlier game. Not necessarily the last game but an earlier game in the season if it's something similar to what they do or they feel they can do."

It happened during New England's loss to Houston over the weekend. 

Given that the Patriots defense has been one of the best in football throughout the season, there likely haven't been many plays for offensive coordinators to point to and scream gleefully, "THAT'LL WORK AGAINST THE PATRIOTS!" 

But one of those looks availed itself in the Patriots' loss to Baltimore back in Week 9. It was a relatively rare formation that the Ravens were able to run with a rare talent at quarterback in Lamar Jackson. The Texans must've perked up when they saw it help the Ravens run through Belichick's defense on film.

The Ravens ran out of the Pistol — with a running back aligned behind a quarterback in the shotgun. They also used an inverted wishbone look with two tight ends aligned as fullbacks and one tight end as an in-line player on the end of the line of scrimmage. 

They used it successfully on multiple occasions that night in Baltimore. 

Not every team would be able to execute a similar style of play. First and foremost, most teams don't have a quarterback with great mobility to be able to carry out the option (or option fake) the way Jackson did for the Ravens. 

Houston's Deshaun Watson isn't all that far off as an athlete, though. And the Texans, like the Ravens, had three tight ends to run out there for that 13-personnel (one back, three tight ends) grouping. 

The Patriots handled that copycat play well the first time around. They limited Texans running back Carlos Hyde to a gain of three. It was much better than when Baltimore's Mark Ingram ran for 14 on the same play the month before. 

But then the Texans threw a wrinkle into the Ravens look. They faked the inside handoff. But not for Watson to run, as Jackson did in Week 9. They faked the handoff for Watson to keep . . . then throw.

That was an adjustment off the copycat play that the Patriots hadn't yet seen. 

"That showed up [Sunday] night," Belichick told WEEI when asked about the Texans borrowing from Baltimore. 

"That's been showing up all year though, and it's certainly shown up in the past. It's not uncommon at all. That's what a lot of offensive coaches will do. They'll take things that are successful — either plays or concepts — and if it matches up with their personnel and the way they want to attack you, sure. You'll see those again."

The question is whether or not there are other teams who can take these Baltimore-style looks and add them to their plans for attacking the Patriots defense moving forward. Specifically, do they have the personnel? 

The next team on the Patriots schedule, Kansas City, has an athletic quarterback (who dealt with a bad knee earlier this year), Patrick Mahomes. In theory, he could do something similar. But the Chiefs might not have the beef required at tight end to pull it off. They have fullback Anthony Sherman. They have a blocking tight end in Blake Bell. But star tight end Travis Kelce is closer to a big receiver than a true dual-threat (receiving and blocking) tight end so it may prove difficult for the Chiefs. 

The Bills are the other team on New England's schedule with a mobile quarterback, Josh Allen. They also have three capable blockers at tight end in Lee Smith, Dawson Knox and Tyler Kroft. Additionally, Buffalo has an offensive coordinator that knows the Patriots intimately in former Belichick assistant Brian Daboll. It would come as little surprise if what the Ravens used against the Patriots — and what the Texans sprung on them — pops up again in Week 16 at Gillette Stadium for an important AFC East showdown.

"That's why it's so important to watch the film after the game, to correct the mistakes, to go through what happened in the game," Belichick said, "so if they do come back up again, at least you've got an understanding of how you want to handle those situations.

"Sometimes those things reappear. Sometimes they don't. Hopefully if you anticipate it's going to be a problem going forward, that's what you do. There was some of that in the [Texans] game. I wouldn't say an inordinate amount. Certainly the running game had a lot of elements to the Baltimore running game, but that really wasn't a big problem in the game. The bigger problem for us was second down."

Belichick was right about that. The Patriots largely had the Houston running game swallowed up Sunday, allowing fewer than 3.0 yards per carry. 

But in tight conference games late in the season, the difference can be one play, and the Texans got the Patriots for one crucial touchdown that helped them win it — thanks to a little help from Baltimore. And now the Ravens control their own destiny as the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

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