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Is The Texans Pass Attack The Single Malt Of The NFL?

My daughter started crawling this past week, which means we now have to baby-proof the entire house.  The funny thing about baby-proofing is that it's more than just putting plastic caps in the plugs and locking the cabinets.  There are a bunch of little things that you just don't realize you need to take care of until she starts reaching for them. 

For example, I didn't realize that it's not just what she can get into, but what she can knock over.  Any piece of furniture that's not completely stable can no longer have a picture frame on top of it because she will eventually try to pull herself up on it, thus knocking down the frame.  I've addressed this by putting her in a Glover Quin jersey, which effectively prevents her from knocking anything down.

This whole thing makes me nervous, though, because it feels like it's impossible to account for all the possibilities.

What does this have to do with football (other than we can now add her to the list of people Kareem Jackson can't cover)?

Well, it poses an interesting parallel to the dilemma faced by defensive coordinators around the league now that Arian Foster is healthy again.  It's impossible for them to account for all the possibilities.

I made mention in this post about how with James Casey's breakout game and Arian Foster's return to the ranks of the healthy, the Texans now employ some of the top receiving options in four key positions.  Let's look at that a little deeper.

Starting with the obvious, Andre Johnson is, without question, one of the best receivers in the game.  And by "one of the best," I mean "the best."  It's silly to need to quantify his awesomeness, so instead of looking at current or recent stats, let's look at him in a grander scale.

Over the past three years, Andre has averaged 100 receptions and 1,453 yards per season.  If he can maintain that rate for the next three years, he'll have 975 career receptions and 13,524 career yards by age 32.  This would rank him 8th and 10th respectively in career yards (although Hines Ward is currently 8th in receptions with 966, so he'll likely still be ahead of AJ three years from now -- of course, at 33 today, he's unlikely to finish ahead of AJ when all is said and done).

If we continue on our projections, let's assume that Andre plays until he's 38, and that starting at age 32, his production drops by 10% each year.  This means he would finish the 2017 season with 30 receptions for 436 yards, so it passes the sanity check.  Anyway, he would then wrap up that season with 1,398 receptions and 19,628 yards for his career.  This would put him second behind only Jerry Rice in both categories (by about 150 receptions and 3,200 yards), and we haven't even factored in any playoff games or a potential 18 game season. 

Andre Johnson isn't just one of the best receivers in the game today, he's on the short list of the best of all time.

While that can't be said of the other threats on the team right now, they are definitely among the best in the game today.

In Arian Foster's only full year in the NFL, he put up the top DYAR (197) and 12th best DVOA (25.6%) by running backs in the passing game.  He led all running backs in receiving yards and was second only to LeSean McCoy in receptions.  He's unquestionably one of the best at catching the ball out of the backfield.

Owen Daniels hasn't had a full, healthy season since 2008, and spent the first half of last year getting reacquainted with his position before missing some time with a hamstring injury.  When he came back, he finally started looking like the OD of old.  You know, the one who finished 15th in DYAR and 5th in DVOA in 2009, 5th/12th in 2008, and 8th/13th in 2007. 

While his rankings this year aren't as high (15th/22nd), it's key to note that he was fairly quiet in Week 1 (along with the entire passing game) and was kept in to block for a lot of the second game.  He was, though, a big part of the game in New Orleans, and it's a good bet that we'll see those rankings move up again.

Lastly, James Casey currently ranks 6th in DYAR and 4th in DVOA...for tight ends.  It's pretty safe to say that he's the highest ranked fullback on that list.  Advanced NFL Stats doesn't even rank him because they don't list him as a fullback or a running back.  OK, yes it's a small sample size and he's unlikely to have 126 receiving yards again any time soon, but many Texans fans knew this was coming (maybe not 126 yards, but we knew that he was going to be a major threat in the passing game), so it's also likely that he'll continue some solid production.

It may be early, but Casey could develop into the best receiving fullback in the NFL since Larry Centers.

So, let's recap.  The Texans have the best wide receiver and receiving fullback in the league.  They also have a running back and tight end that, while the argument could be that they're not the best, they are definitely in the discussion. 

It's unlikely that all of them will end up at the top of their respective positions when the season ends (except Casey, who probably already locked up the highly coveted "Best Receiving Fullback" award), simply because the wealth will be spread around. 

Yet the defensive mismatches will be awesome to witness.  Teams already need to roll safety coverage to Andre's side of the field, and he still manages to burn them with regularity.  If either Walter or Jacoby is on the field, that leaves some combination of another safety, nickle, or linebackers to cover Daniels, Casey, and Foster. Factor in that the team will also have either Walter, Jacoby, or Joel Dreessen on the field, and I can't think of a single team in the NFL that has the personnel to match up with that.

While we've seen them all in some combination, though, this weekend will be the first time that all those weapons will finally be able to be unleashed together, and it should be exciting to watch. 

Unless you root for Pittsburgh.

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