Who Wears the Crown: Identifying the Texans' Best Player at the Midseason Mark
Halfway through the NFL season, the Houston Texans stand atop the AFC standings. This is an amazing time in the history of the Texans, and Texans' fans should feel an incredible amount of pride in their amazing football team.
In order to get to the point where the Texans are right now, one would have to assume that both sides of the ball on their football team are loaded with talent.
Well, they are, and in this article I will be analyzing the top five players on the Texans' roster based on their performances to this point.
On a team as talented as the Texans, there are a bevy of brilliant athletes, which makes it extremely difficult the best from the slightly worse.
Nevertheless, here are my top five players on the first place Texans.
No. 5: Johnathan Joseph
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In 2010, the Texans had one of most historically bad secondary's in league history. Then rookie Kareem Jackson did not yet have the talent nor the mental strength to be an important player on a team expected to do big things.
Then in 2011, three free agent signings completely changed the Texans' secondary.
Wade Phillips was brought in as the team's defensive coordinator, and his newly implemented defensive scheme completely transformed the Texans' defense. Danieal Manning, an excellent safety, was brought in from the Chicago Bears, and he immediately provided stability to a troubled secondary.
The player signing that made the biggest difference, however, was the signing of Johnathan Joseph. Joseph was the great cornerback the Texans had been lacking since the good days of Dunta Robinson.
To this very day, Joseph continues to shut down opposing teams' top receivers. His impeccable coverage forces quarterbacks to hesitate an extra second, and that extra second makes all the difference with the Texans' exceptional pass-rush swarming towards the quarterback.
After being allowed to rest his groin for a full week, however, Joseph was able to return to his usual dominant self versus the Ravens. He shut down Torrey Smith, a receiver who has had a terrific season up to this date.
As the Texans continue their march into the playoffs, Joseph will play an integral role in the Bulls on Parade defense.
No. 4: Arian Foster
How can Arian Foster, the Texans' superstar running back, only be ranked fourth on this list? Aren't the Texans a running football team, and isn't Foster key to the Texans' running success?
While Arian Foster has been enjoying another great football season, his performance has not been up to par with those of the past.
At times, Foster seems hesitant to hit the hole, and he has also not been consistent in finding cutback lanes. Though the offensive line must share much of the blame, Foster still must be held accountable, as his measly 3.9 yards per carry is not impressive at all.
Away with the bad stuff, though, Foster still has been having a fantastic season, in spite of some of the struggles of his offensive line. He leads all running backs in total yards and touchdowns, and he still runs with that beautiful gliding stride.
Last week against the Ravens, Foster stepped up and delivered one of his best performances of the season is a key matchup. He carried the ball 19 times for 98 yards, amounting to an average of 5.2 yards-per-carry.
If Foster can continue running the ball like he did against the Ravens, then you will certainly see him ranked much higher on this list by the end of the season.
No. 3: Owen Daniels
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Owen Daniels, the Texans' Pro Bowl tight end who had never quite seemed recovered from his devastating ACL injury several seasons ago, is officially back.
In a league where passing has become a premium, quarterbacks all over the league have looked to target their big-bodied tight ends consistently in every game.
Though the Texans still have a run-first mentality, an efficient passing attack is still a very important aspect of their offense that they need to thrive.
In a season where Andre Johnson has not consistently looked like himself, the Texans' passing game would be expected to severely decline.
Well, thanks to the rise of Daniels, it has remained as smooth as always.
Daniels has been a reliable target for quarterback Matt Schaub, both in the open field and in the redzone. Daniels leads the Texans in receiving touchdowns so far this season, and three of them have come from within the redzone.
Thanks to this, the Texans' struggling redzone offense has been greatly improved this season.
Daniels has been a major cause for the Texans' passing success this season, and his dependency as a receiving target for Schaub should not go unnoticed.
Daniels deserves this spot.
No. 2: Matt Schaub
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The leader of the offense in the NFL, especially in today's NFL, is the quarterback. That is true on every single football team, even on one as run dependent as the Texans.
With an incapable quarterback at the helm of the offense, a football team will go nowhere. It will not matter how good their running game nor their defense is, a team needs a solid quarterback to win football games.
A prime example of this is the Jaguars. They boast a dominant run game and an extremely talented defense, yet with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, they are unable to make the jump to being a competitive football team.
Fortunately for the Texans, Schaub is nowhere near the category of the likes of Gabbert.
Though Schaub is sometimes viewed as a game-manager, as many of his critics believe all he does is hand the ball off and not throw interceptions.
This could not be further from the truth.
Schaub runs the Texans' play-action offense to perfection, making him a perfect fit in the Texans' offensive scheme.
He does not turn the ball over, but this is not because he is afraid to take a risk. Actually, Schaub looks to go deep on nearly every single passing play. After Schaub rolls out from a play-action fake, he scans the field from high to low.
This means that he starts off looking downfield, and if a receiver is open, he will heave the ball deep. Then, if the deep ball is not open, he begins to search for safer and easier passes to complete.
Schaub has been excellent this season so far, and he has done everything in his power to lead the Texans' to an extremely impressive 6-1 record.
No. 1: J.J. Watt
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In 2011, when it was the Texans turn to draft, I closed my eyes and prayed. "Please," thought I, "please draft Prince Amukamora, Rick Smith, or I will forever hate you."
When the Texans selected the under-the-radar J.J. Watt, you could imagine I was disappointed. My friends chided and made fun of me, and I prepared myself for another season of having an awful secondary. Of course, neither Johnathan Joseph nor Danieal Manning had been signed yet.
How foolish that all seems now, doesn't it?
Now, Amukamora is struggling to succeed on the New York Giants, and Watt is not just in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year but also league MVP.
Watt has been simply incredible this season, and it is pretty clear that the Texans' general manager and coaching staff knew something I didn't on draft night two years ago.
Watt has done everything for the Texans' defense. He leads the league in sacks with 9.5 of them, and despite being regularly double and sometimes triple teamed, he he still manages to pressure the quarterback.
That is not the extent of Watt's game, however, as he is also famous for swatting the ball down at the line of scrimmage. Swatting down a pass that a quarterback believes he can complete is a huge momentum killer that can kill a drive.
Right now, Watt currently leads the league in passes defended with 10. Furthermore, four of those defended passes have turned into Texans' interceptions, one of them a pick-6.
Watt has single-handedly completely changed games for the Texans this season, and he more than deserves the top spot in these rankings.