We’ve been talking about the season that Houston’s Chris Myers has been having at center for a while now. We’ve even written an article about it!
PFF was lucky enough to get to talk to Chris during his bye week, and in addition to talking about the usual things, we got his take on the Texans’ prospects with Matt Leinart under center, and what difference that makes to the Houston offense, and Myers himself as that center.
Pro Football Focus: Thanks for taking the time out of your bye week to talk us here at PFF, Chris. First off, can you tell us a little about what an average day for you guys is like – it’s more than just a few meetings, a practice and then going out on Sundays, right?
Chris Myers: For the most part every NFL team pretty much has the same kind of schedule on a day-to-day basis. Mondays you come in after the game and you get a lift in and go over the film from the day before. We’ll get a bit of a run in to get loosened-up from the game the day before, and then Tuesdays are always off. I’m married now with two little daughters so I spend most of my time with the family hanging out.
Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are the big work days. I’m usually in the facility from 6:00 in the morning on Wednesdays, and I don’t leave until 3:00 or 3:30-ish. Those are long days. Then on Fridays we get to tone back a little bit, more of a mental preparation. We’ve had our big days of practice and we’re just putting the finishing touches on things getting ready for the game.
Saturday rolls around and we go through a walkthrough, but we’re pretty much traveling the whole day for away games, and that can get pretty tedious. For home games we get pretty much have the day off and then go to the hotel in the evenings.
PFF: How do you get your feedback from the Texans as players?
CM: Just like you guys have your own grading scale, every position with us has their own grading scale. Our offensive line coach John Benton and Frank Pollack, our assistant coach individually grade every single play for every person on the line just like you guys. They check how you did, how your technique was, whether you got someone to the ground and it all gets tallied up into a score. Ours gets worked into a percentage. In our grading scale you have to get knockdowns and cuts to get a positive grade. When you do your job you just get a zero, but if you get a knockdown or a cut you get a plus, so you’ve got to get some cuts just to get above zero.
That’s just the offensive line, every position is different. They rate us early Monday morning and then when we come in as a group we’ll watch it as an offensive line and as an offense and check out the grades.
PFF: How much do you get to watch of other players in the NFL at your position? Do you watch film of those guys?
CM: I don’t specifically watch other centers. Sometimes if we’re getting ready to play a team I’ll try and watch some film of offenses that run a similar offense to ours. Teams that we know runs similar plays like the Raiders, the Falcons, or Seattle runs it a little bit, the zone blocking scheme, and you’ll watch a few different centers throughout the league. Just watching film on guys, you know, you don’t even know them. You don’t talk to them, you don’t have their numbers, you’re not friends with them, but like for instance Matt Birk, a quality center in the league for a long time, whenever we’d get to play the Ravens – or in the past, Minnesota – I’d talk to him after the game, just a mutual respect from center to center, you know what I mean? He watches me on film when he’s scouting defenses he’ll face and vice versa. This past game I got to talk to Alex Mack after the game, the Cleveland center. He’s in his second year, went to the Pro-Bowl last year as a rookie, and had a heck of a season. We kind of just have that mutual respect ’cause there’s only one other guy on that team playing center on the line, so you kind of have that respect and you know every single one in the league.
PFF: So when you’re watching somebody like Matt Birk – a bigger type of center who has played primarily in power-blocking schemes – are you watching for technique stuff, or just to check out another center?
CM: Yea, both. I understand that his technique will be a little bit different because he’s bigger, but Baltimore has been trying to implement this zone scheme this past offseason. They brought in Alex Gibbs, basically the founder of the zone schemes, to try and help them get that technique underway. Matt was talking to me after the game about that, saying it’s not easy, especially for bigger centers. I mean, I’m only 285-290, and to be able to be in a zone scheme you’ve got to be quick off the ball and be able to get places and to the second level, be quick at everything you’re doing, and that’s what Matt was talking to me about after the game.
PFF: At ‘just’ 285lbs do you find it more difficult to go up against some of these behemoth 330lb, 2-gap nose tackles?
CM: It depends on our scheme and the plays we have called. Because of the way we block things, offensive linemen aren’t usually alone on defensive tackles, aside from pass plays. In pass plays you’ve got to be able to man-up and do your own thing. Sometimes it’s even harder to block the lighter and quicker guys, because they’re able to react and read faster than bigger guys are. With bigger guys you’re sometimes able to get around them and get play-side technique, and then get them cut. That’s the biggest thing with the 3-4 defenses – we’re trying so hard to get the backside cut, and yeah, 3-4 defenses are tougher, but it depends who it is with those big tackles and what kind of schemes we’re running.
PFF: So who are the toughest guys you’ve gone against?
CM: In my career, Shaun Rogers has been a tough task in his prime. That one season Albert Haynesworth had in Tennessee he was pretty tough, and Kris Jenkins. When Jenkins was on point he was one of the best defensive tackles in the league and nobody could block him. But now you’re up against guys like Haloti Ngata in Baltimore, and he’s unbelievable. He can line up at nose tackle, 3-technique and defensive end and beat guys. Then you’ve got Justin Smith. I rarely have to go against him because he played DE in a 3-4, but speaking with my guards and stuff … and he’s having a heck of a year right now.
PFF: Another Justin Smith fan! We’ve been singing his praises for a long time, he must be one of the most underrated players around.
CM: Oh, by far.
PFF: So you haven’t seen the information behind the PFF paywall yet, I’m curious if our grading matches your perception of games this year. What would you say has been your toughest game this season, your worse performance?
CM: Oh, by far, Oakland! [Chris’ -2.4 grade against the Raiders was more than twice as bad as his next worst game and represented one of only two negative grades he’s received this season] Our whole offensive line didn’t grade well in that game. For some reason … no, I don’t want to say for some reason … Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour have always been quality players, and this year they’re playing unbelievably. They had a scheme for us, and it worked tremendously. They stopped our run, and when we had to pass because they stopped the run, they’re so tall and so lanky inside that they were batting down balls. I think they batted down like six or seven balls [PFF counted 6] and I honestly think that was the difference in the game. We didn’t have great grades as an offensive line blocking them, and they were able to bat down balls in the passing game. It was definitely our worst game of the season, and we kind of took that personally a little bit, and we’ve been trying to use that for the rest of the year.
PFF: Richard Seymour is currently in our Top 3 for defensive tackles this season.
CM: Yea, I wouldn’t doubt it right now.
PFF: So is there an area of your game you think you’re better or worse at? Are you a better run blocker or pass protector, say?
CM: I don’t know. I definitely enjoy run blocking, I think that goes with the territory with offensive linemen but especially with our scheme and the way we can get on top of defensive linemen and linebackers before they have a chance to react. That helps us out as a line, and the fact that we’ve been together as a unit for a while now, we’re meshing really well. So I definitely enjoy run blocking more, I think any offensive lineman is going to say that, and like we talked about before, pass blocking, with me being a little bit lighter, I’ve got to work on my technique and be a little bit stronger weight room wise to be able to hold in there. But that comes with the territory, because if I gained a few more pounds I woultn’t be able to run block as well as I do. It’s a give and take, but it’s working out right now, knock on wood.
PFF: That was something else we were going to ask, how much of a difference does the time you guys have played together and had a chance to gel make?
CM: It makes all the difference in the world when it comes to offensive linemen, especially in a system like this. We’re all doing the exact same things at the same time, and we really don’t even have to make too many calls anymore. Between Eric Winston, Mike Breisel and myself on the right side we’ve been starting together since 2008, and Mike and Eric together since ’07. Duane has been starting since 2008, and Wade Smith has been starting since the beginning of last season, and he’s a nine-year veteran so he didn’t need much time to pick things up. We’ve all been gelling real well, and for the most part we just go up to the line, don’t make many calls anymore, just call out a number, and they can’t tell if we’re going left or right. It’s really helped us out.
PFF: What about you personally … you’ve always graded well for PFF, but this season you seem to have taken it to a new level. How do you feel about your play this year, are you aware of improvement?
CM: I mean you can obviously tell when you have a decent game compared to an average game, like in the Oakland game I could tell that I didn’t play well, and we didn’t play well as a line. I think that’s the way it goes, the way the offensive line goes, the team goes, and right now we’re playing really well as a team. When our line is playing well the team is playing well. I try not to look at it too much individually, that’s just the way I am, supersititious wise, but I had a decent year last year, and I’m just trying to build on that this year.
PFF: So tell us what happened in Denver, why didn’t things work out there, and you had to come to Houston to get the shot?
CM I ended up starting most of 2007, the first four or five were at left guard when I had to jump in for Ben Hamilton who was a guard there for a long time. Then Tom Nalen ended up getting hurt and I had to jump in at center. At the end of that season they weren’t sure if Tom was coming back. My contract was up, and they weren’t going to re-sign me as their starting center if Tom was coming back, and so was Ben Hamilton, and that’s when Coach Kubiak searched me out. He was my offensive coordinator out in Denver before he came to Houston, and that’s how that all started with the trade. That’s how it all worked out.
PFF: It worked out pretty well for you it seems.
CM Yea, I can’t complain too much, you know. That helped out my future big time so I owe a lot to Coach Kubiak and Rick Smith.
PFF: How much does the Pro-Bowl mean to you guys as players these days. It’s become the subject of a lot of derision, what’s your take, do you take it seriously?
CM: Yea, obviously you take it seriously, and if that honor gets bestowed on you at the end of the season it’s icing on the cake. We’re only in the midst of things now, we’re only 10 games in, on our bye week, relaxing and speaking for our guys, you don’t think about it too much. Right now we’re in the hunt to do something this franchise has never done – make the playoffs, and onwards. That’s what our goal is right now, and if all of the accolades like Pro Bowls come afterwards then that’s more icing on the cake, and I can talk to you about that if it happens down the line, but right now I’m not even thinking about that type of stuff.
PFF: We’re curious about Matt Leinart. With Schaub down, we wrote a piece recently about what a great situation this is for Leinart to walk into. Tell us a bit about your take on him coming in to be the guy at QB.
CM: I think you guys hit it right on the head. Aside from everything about Matt, if you were a backup quarterback coming into a team, you’d want it to be a situation like this. 7-3, looking to go to the playoffs, an offense that’s been able to have success on the ground and give you a bit of a cushion. That being said, Matt’s got all the tools in the world to be successful. Things didn’t work out for him in Arizona for whatever reasons, but he’s got the chance now. He’s been in the offense for over a year-and-a-half, and he had his chance to leave and didn’t. He wanted to stay here, and I think that says a lot.
He knows how to run the offense, he does it every day in practice, and we’ve seen what ability he has all through training camp, and now he has the chance to go out and do it on Sundays. I’m thoroughly excited for him. I got a bit of extra work with him before we took off for the bye week and I’m excited to get back to work and see how it’s going to work out.
PFF: Is there anything you have to do differently from a technique or mechanics point of view to deal with a left-handed quarterback like Matt Leinart?
CM: To be honest with you, I had never taken snaps from a left-handed quarterback before he ended up coming here last season. I thought it may be different or feel different on my butt or something, but after a few days of training camp you get used to it. Now when he’s in the huddle as opposed to Matt (Schaub) I don’t notice a difference of where their hands are at. Obviously he takes it with his left hand not his right, but you can’t really notice the difference. He takes pride in being able to do that and makes the centers comfortable, so they don’t have to worry about how they’re snapping the ball, he’ll move his hands around, so he does a good job with that.
Obviously it’s now backwards with the blind side now on the right, those type of things. Our offensive coordinator may have to take that into consideration, but aside from that we’re just rolling with what we’ve been doing.
PFF: How big a deal is something like the blind side moving for a left handed quarterback? The media likes to make it into a big issue, but do you guys really focus much on it, or is it just business as usual?
CM: To be honest with you, I don’t know yet. We haven’t had to deal with it in the regular season. I think it’s more like you say, a media issue, and something for the fans to talk about, or something for the announcers to talk about on gameday as a whole different situation, but it really isn’t. Our protections are already build to go both ways, and if we go a little more to the other side now it’s not like it’s out of the ordinary, because we’ve already been running them to both sides for a long time.
PFF: That’s all we’ve got Chris, thanks again for taking the time to talk to us, and good luck down the stretch, hopefully we’ll see you guys in the playoffs.
CM: Yea, absolutely, any time. I’m a big fan of the website. Thanks guys, I appreciate it.