- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Has Andre Johnson lost a half-step?
I don’t care what the Houston Texans wide receiver has lost if he’s producing like he did last season.
In a recent column at the National Football Post, Len Pasquarelli wrote of how the Texans have worked to restock the receiving corps.
Sure they’d like to have the next Johnson before the actual Johnson enters his twilight. But drafting four receivers over the past two seasons hasn’t been primarily about replacing Johnson. It’s been about, as Pasquarelli pointed out, finding an “explosive complement” to him.
“… [T]here has been no real discernable drop-off. But some opponents suggest that Johnson has lost perhaps a half-step, and isn’t as explosive. Johnson had only four touchdown catches last season, his fewest since 2002 in a season in which he played at least nine games. So while the bigger emphasis has been on (DeAndre) Hopkins, who should provide Houston and quarterback Matt Schaub a quality No. 2 starter, the club has privately allowed there is a need to start developing one of the other young wide receivers as well. Second-year veteran DeVier Posey had some flashes as a rookie in ’12, and fellow youngsters Keshawn Martin and Lestar Jean have promise as well. One of them needs to step up as a viable No. 3, and possible Johnson replacement in a few years.”
It will be difficult for Posey to do it this season, as he’s likely not ready until midseason after shredding his Achilles in the playoff loss at New England. Hopkins should be the eventual replacement for Johnson as the No. 1, while the Texans need one of the others to emerge as a No. 2.
We talked a year ago about the possibility that Johnson's legs were starting to go as he had multiple issues in 2011. He responded with 112 catches for 1,598 yards -- the second most productive yardage season in the NFL. Johnson’s never had more yards, and has only had more catches once.
The Texans were overly reliant on Johnson last season, and need some of the new guys, particularly rookie first-rounder Hopkins, to help change that.
As for Johnson's four touchdown catches, I don’t see them as an indicator of some drop-off in play. Rather, they speak to where he caught the ball most of the time.
If the Texans are to be a more threatening offense, Johnson has to have chances to score and more balls aimed at him in the end zone. That’s on Gary Kubiak and Schaub more than Johnson.
(Four links in four graphs there to previous posts about Johnson and the Texans' passing game. That's a new record I believe. Shall we have a parade)?