Impact Players Still in Houston
Patrick D. Starr
Despite the bevy of moves by the Houston Texans this offseason, the team is still in a good position to make noise during the 2012 season. With the losses of Eric Winston, Mike Brisiel, DeMeco Ryans and Jason Allen, the Texans on the surface seem to be losing important parts of the team. The fact remains the Texans still have the impact players who made a difference in the 2011 season, which resulted in an AFC South Division title and the franchise's first ever playoff win.
Now losing the players the Texans have lost in recent weeks has put a damper on the depth of the roster and psyche of the fan base, and it will be up to the front office to find more depth in the upcoming NFL draft. Still Texans' fans have plenty to look forward to in the core players that were the real key of last season's magical season.
The Texans have difference makers on every level on offense and defense. Just look for yourself:
Offensively: If you look at the core that is coming back, plenty of teams around the NFL would like to have the three-headed monster of Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson. Those three playmakers, if health permits, are as dangerous a trio as there is in the NFL. All three have led the league in their respective yardage category at one time in their career. Throw in Schaub's favorite underneath target in Owen Daniels, he is one of the most dangerous pass catching tight ends and can put up serious yards. Resigning center Chris Myers was key in adding the leader back to the offensive line and keeping all the line calls in order during gametime. Also the rising star of Duane Brown who, establishing himself as the cream of the crop when it comes to Schaub's blind side, took a big step in his 4th season as a Texan.
Arian Foster- Despite missing games, Foster still led the league in yards from scrimmage. He showed his true worth in playoff time when he carried the Texans' offense on his back.
Matt Schaub- 7-3 as the Texans' starter in 2011 before a freak foot injury put him on the shelf for the season. Many experts say the Texans would have been a Super Bowl threat with him healthy.
Andre Johnson- Still considered one of the top wide receivers in the NFL, he makes the Texans' offense even better when he is on the field.
Owen Daniels- Led the team in receiving yards in 2011 (677 yards) and his numbers dipped after Schuab went down for the season.
Chris Myers- Considered the leader of the offensive line since being traded for in 2005, Myers has started 80 consecutive games for the Texans since becoming the starter in 2007.
Duane Brown- Has started all 60 games he has appeared in for the Texans and improved all facets of his game in 2011. Just ask James Harrison.
Defensively: The second best defense in the NFL is back with all but one starter. The defensive line has two of the most disruptive 3-4 defensive end tandem in the NFL with J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith. Both Watt and Smith have made plays with different styles on the field, but both give offensive lines nightmares with their relentless plays. Throw in the leader of the defense, inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who returned to form after a horrid sophomore season. Cushing never came off the field, was a 3 down linebacker for the Texans, and playing sideline to sideline he was all over the field. The emergence of Connor Barwin helped offset the pass rush that was supposed to be supplied from Mario Williams who was lost for the season. Barwin proved to get better as the season wore on and gives the Texans a true pass rush threat off the edge. Johnathan Joseph's ability to shut down the opposing teams' best wide receiver proved a huge difference in the Texans' defense. His confidence he exudes on the field gives the Texans that confident edge. An unsung hero for the Texans had to be the safety play of Danieal Manning. His ability to play centerfield and use his speed to tackle and cover on over the top routes gave the Texans a "real" safety that helped solidify the pass coverage.
J.J. Watt- A surprise pick on draft day, worked himself into one of the fan favorites by season end. Watt showed that he can control games single-handed, and the interception in the playoffs against the Bengals doesn't hurt either.
Antonio Smith- He might not light up the stat sheet, but Smith caused more issue on the defensive front that frees up others to make plays. His ability to put hits on the quarterback is second to none.
Connor Barwin- Double digit sack season with 11.5, Barwin late in the season showed he can get to the quarterback when needed. Bouncing back from an injury, Barwin is still learning the position which means the sky is the limit.
Brian Cushing- 114 total tackles, 4 sacks and 2 interceptions showed he is the complete package in the middle. Looking healthy once again, Cushing quieted all of his doubters and grew as a leader in 2011.
Johnathan Joseph- Proved to be the best offseason acquisition of the 2011 offseason, his ability to control a half of the field by himself made the defense even more deadly.
Danieal Manning- Missed 3 games with a fractured leg. He came back and proved to be a solid addition on the back half. He really showed up during the playoffs where he was a tackling machine and helped seal the Bengals win with an interception.
Yes there is work to be done by the Texans heading into the 2012 season, but there is still some serious football players still in a Texans' uniform.