Two Texans Homecomings
Patrick D. Starr
With the Houston Texans on the brink on rewriting the franchise record book, a small record book might I add, the Cincinnati Bengals are standing in the way this Sunday. The Bengals are a team that have been up and down all season, and with impressive rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green and a better than average running game, there are some reasons for concern for Texans fans. Also, throw in a hard-nosed defense, everything is going to have to be earned by the Texans on Sunday.
This is a homecoming of sorts for two important pieces to the Texans defense, and their play could set the tone for what seems to be another big game for the Texans.
Connor Barwin, the ex-Cincinnati Bearkat returns to the city where he played his college football. As a Bearkat, Barwin in his first three seasons played special teams and was the backup tightend, and it wasn't until his senior season he switched to the defensive side of the football.
Barwin's progression in Houston has been a rocky one, especially with the ankle injury that put him out for the 2010 season. As a rookie in 2009, Barwin has a solid campaign recording 4.5 sacks in 16 games. He has always shown his athletic ability, and with his new position change the growth as a football player has been exponential.
In his new position Barwin has garnered AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors (November) and established himself as a force of the edge by having 8.5 sacks in 12 contests. What is more impressive is the way he has taken the Texans pass rush to another level and gives offenses something to worry about when he lines up. Barwin is a perfect fit for his skill sets in the 3-4 scheme and may have found his real home here in Houston.
One underlying story that seems to be going under the radar is the return of cornerback Johnathan Joseph to Cincinnati, the NFL team that gave Joseph his chance at stardom. In 2006, the Bengals selected Joseph with the 24th selection out of the University of South Carolina.
While in Cincinnati he help rejuvenate a football franchise and made one of the most underrated cornerback tandems with Leon Hall. This past offseasn, in his free agent year Joseph, considered the second best free agent cornerback on the market, found a home in Houston and has been worth every dollar the Texans have thrown his way. He was not even talked about in regards to being the best free agent signing this offseason, but it is apparent by what he has done for this Texans defense.
It was apparent how important Joseph was to the Bengals and their fan base. Fans were visibly upset that the Bengals front office did not do more to keep Joseph in a Bengals uniform. Don't expect "too much" trash talking between Joseph and his ex-teammates, because it sounds like he was truly liked by his teammates and they were not looking forward to seeing him leave.
Expect Joseph to be matched up against rookie A.J. Green and expect his normal in your face attitude on Sunday. Even though we expect no issues, we still expect to see a man with a chip on his shoulder when he takes the field.
With the two coming back to their old stomping grounds, expect the two to be contributing like they have done all season. With special things on the horizon expect Joseph and Barwin to have solid games to get the Texans where they need to be.