Expectations for the Houston Texans are high. In a weak AFC South the Texans look to repeat as AFC South champs. The assumption is that if T.J. Yates can get them to their first playoff victory in franchise history, think of what will happen when Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub are in the lineup.
This assumption makes two errors. First, no one should expect Schaub and Johnson to be on the field together for an entire season. Second, Schaub and Johnson’s best days may be behind them. Fans and commentators always think that players will play close to how they played the previous year. There is no reason to think Schaub and Johnson will be at their best given their age and health concerns.
In his nine seasons in the NFL, Andre Johnson has played only five full seasons with the Texans. Last year he appeared in only seven games and 13 the year before. This year Johnson is starting out injured. He will most likely miss all organized team activities as he will be out three to four weeks after having surgery on his left knee.
Matt Schaub has missed the start of OTAs after having surgery on his right foot. Schaub has started for the Texans for five years, but only two seasons has he been able to play all 16 games. He missed five games in each of his first two seasons due to injury and last year missed six.
In their five seasons together, Schaub and Johnson have been on the field together for the entire season only once. There is no reason to think two players in their 30s, with a history of injuries, will be able to play together for a full season, particularly one in which they are starting injured.
However, even if they do play together for the entire season, there is no reason to think they will perform at their best. Both Johnson and Schaub are 30. Last year only two of the top 10 reception leaders were 30 or older and only four of the 10 quarterbacks who led the league in passing yards were 30 or older, and the same holds true for QB passer rating.
Three years ago Len Pasquarelli, writing for ESPN, noted that the league’s receiving corps was getting younger. When he wrote in 2009 the statistics noting that receivers over 30 don’t do as well as their younger counterparts goes to support the claim that Johnson, who is going to be on the wrong side of 30, should start seeing a decline.
Last year Jon Clayton wrote for ESPN that the league’s QB’s are getting younger. Since 1998 the average age of starting QB’s has decreased. Not good news if you’re counting on Schaub. Add to this that his completion percentage has decreased over the past three seasons. In fact, from 2008 to 2009 is the only time he has improved his completion percentage from one season to the next. 2009 was his best year statistically, and he has since declined in every important category.
So count on the Texans repeating the success of last year only if you think Johnson and Schaub can outrun Father Time and break their habit of getting injured.
The Texans need Schaub and Johnson to be healthy and perform at a high level if they are to build on last season. When Johnson was out, the team was 5-4; with Schaub out, the team was 3-3; when both were out, the team was 0-2.
Arian Foster is a stud who should continue to be so next season—as long as he does not miss games this season due to injury like he did last season. However, when Schaub and Johnson were out, Foster’s numbers understandably dropped off with T.J. Yates at quarterback and a questionable receiving corps on the field.
Put all this together with a defense full of new faces and at best you can be uncertain about the Texans’ chances of winning the AFC South. At worst, next season will be one Texans’ fans are all too familiar with—being the Cleveland Browns of the South.