As the NFL has moved into the 21st century, power running games have become a thing of the past. Most teams have moved to a spread, air-attack type offense, making game-changing wide receivers a hot commodity.
Then there is Andre Johnson. Arguably the best wide receiver in the game, this Texan has a made a living off mixing precise route running with incredible hands and speed.
Since he went down in Week 4 with a hamstring injury, the Texans are 2-2 after previously being 3-1. They lost two consecutive games after the Week 4 injury against the Steelers (a game in which they won).
Johnson practiced for the first time this week since the injury, and will look to play again very soon.
Here are some of the reasons the Texans' offense has been missing Johnson.
When Andre Johnson is in the game, teams have to keep a safety over the top to guard against his deep-threat ability. This is one less player that defensive coordinators can use in run support against one of the best running backs in the game, Arian Foster.
The one game this season in which Johnson and Foster played together, Foster ran for 155 yards. This performance came against the Steelers no less.
Foster has been having a great season thus far. Due, largely, to an offensive line that has played like the best run-blocking line in the league. But, when Johnson returns to the lineup, look for Foster to start putting up monster numbers on the ground.
Obviously, the addition of Andre Johnson to the lineup will improve the passing numbers. He is one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the league.
But, it goes deeper than that.
With Andre Johnson on the field, the focus will be on stopping him. This will open up the field for guys like Kevin Walters, Owen Daniels and Jacoby Jones.
Not to mention that it will make things a whole lot easier on Matt Schaub. Since the loss of Johnson, Schuab's passing rating has dropped by five points.
Believe it or not, having an elite wide receiver also helps out in the trenches. With someone like Andre Johnson on the field, defenses can't risk sending as many blitz packages after the quarterback. With most blitzes, teams must resort to only single covering wide receivers, or sometimes, not covering a wide receiver at all.
This is when Johnson burns his opponents. When there is no safety over the top, he can simply run circles around the defensive back and most of the time he will score or, at least, get a big gain.
Andre Johnson will also help the line with run blocking by simply being on the field. Not only is he a great run blocker, but he also takes the safety out of the equation. In most run blocking schemes, the safety is the one free runner that the line does not account for. If the safety is in a deep half, the line doesn't have to worry about him at all.