As the Houston Texans prepare for their first-ever playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals, much of the contest's hype will be geared toward the two rookie starting quarterbacks: Andy Dalton of the Bengals and TJ Yates of the Texans.
Dalton came out and instantly proved his detractors wrong, having arguably as good a season as top pick Cam Newton despite having less offensive firepower to work with. He and rookie receiver AJ Green are already looking like a couple of veterans and could have one of the most dangerous connections in the coming years.
Despite all of Dalton's success, though, there's reason to believe Houston's rookie could have as good a career as the TCU product—or maybe even better.
Yates was thrown into the fire late this year when just a week after starter Matt Schaub sustained a season-ending injury, backup Matt Leinart suffered the same fate. Yates proceeded to help his team rattle off three straight wins and secure a playoff spot, which included a 300-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 20-19 win over—you guessed it—the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Texans have lost three straight since then, but don't put the blame on Yates. In losses to the Colts and Titans, Yates had QBRs of 101.0 and 115.6 (though he suffered an injury early on against the Titans).
On top of all of Yates' early success and his potential for improvement, the Texans have an outstanding offensive system in place with ample offensive talent around their quarterback.
Receiver Andre Johnson may be getting up there in age, but he still has a few strong years left in him and the Texans shouldn't have too much trouble finding an eventual replacement. Owen Daniels is one of the most talented tight ends in the league, and the Texans also have some young and promising talent at receiver.
Where the real advantage lies, however, is in the running game, where young backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate are entrenched as the league's best one-two punch. While Tate could end up leaving to be a starter elsewhere, as long as one of the two is on the roster, the Texans will provide their quarterback with a solid ground game to complement a passing game that has been outstanding over the past few years.
TJ Yates' early success in Houston's system have a lot of people excited, and with good reason. If this kid develops quickly, Texans fans may not see Matt Schaub as the starter for too much longer.
Even further, Yates might end up being a franchise quarterback on par with the level Andy Dalton figures to reach—or perhaps even a cut above.