After a relatively quiet couple of games weeks 2-5, those pre-season whispers that Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson had lost a step creeped back into conversation. After a big game in the season opening victory over the Miami Dolphins, Johnson had only 9 receptions in the next four games. Most of that was the result of the Texans jumping out to big leads in those games and running the ball a ton. RB Arian Foster was receiving the heavy workload on offense, and was on pace for more than 400 carries.
Despite those facts, some pointed to that 4 game stretch that proof that Johnson was on the decline after experiencing an injury ravaged 2011 season. He has gotten involved in the offense the last 3 games, and is putting up Andre Johnson type numbers. In those 3 games, Johnson has been targeted 32 times and has 25 catches. That includes Sunday’s 8 catch, 118 yard receiving day against the Buffalo Bills. That was the 40th 100 yard receiving game of his career, and second this season.
Those 8 receptions came on 10 targets Sunday. He is still Matt Schaub’s favorite target, as he has been targeted a team high 62 times on the season. Teams still respect Johnson, as they refuse to leave him one on one with their cornerbacks. Safety help is rolled over his way the majority of time, and he still manages to get open.
At the halfway point of the season Johnson leads the Texans with 42 receptions and 562 yards with 2 touchdowns. Thats a pace of 84 catches and 1124 yards, good numbers on what has now become a run oriented team. The bad news for opposing defenses is that Johnson will only get better in the season’s second half. To stay fresh, he has been taking fewer reps in practice throughout the week. When the season hits the stretch run in December, #80 will be ready lead the Texans into the playoffs.
This season, Johnson became the first Texan to play ten years with the team. There is no doubt he’ll be the franchise’s first Hall of Fame representative as well. By season’s end he’ll be in the top 30 all-time in both receptions and receiving yards. His numbers may not be what they once were, but the Texans don’t need them to be. The offense now has many weapons and several ways to attack defenses. However, Johnson is still to be respected and is still one of the best wideouts in the game. Just ask Bills rookie CB Stephen Gilmore, who had his hands full all day Sunday trying to keep up with him.