Before we jump into this year's selection, Gordon McGuiness reviewed PFF's choices for previous secret superstars. Here are his 2011, 2012 and 2013 reviews, but check out what he said about the Texans below.
Houston Texans – Kareem Jackson, CB – MISS
After a rough first couple of seasons in the league, Jackson turned it around with an impressive 2012 season that made us confident that he had turned the corner. That wasn't to be the case however, as he finished the season with the 83rd highest coverage grade among the 110 cornerbacks with enough snaps to qualify.
Ouch. It's hard to specifically remember Kareem Jackson's play when there was so much awful about the Texans in 2013. His slide could be attributed to some poor coaching adjustments or lack of a consistent pass rush, but it's unlikely he's this bad in 2014.
But so far, out of four years in the league, three of them have been in the horrible to average category. Can he get back to his 2012 form, or was that season just an outlier?
Houston Texans – Brice McCain, CB – MISS
If you want a good example of proof that a player’s performance can change rapidly, McCain is your guy. Our 25th highest graded CB in 2011, he fell to 104th in 2012 before tumbling to dead last at 110th in 2013. No longer in Houston, the Pittsburgh Steelers have given his the chance to resurrect what looked like a promising career.
Once upon a time, we were marveling at Brice McCain's outstanding work as the Texans' slot cornerback. Likely noted above, he quickly fell into Jason David levels of bad.
Now that McCain is gone, the Texans aren't any clearer on who will guard the increasingly important slot receiver. Can Brandon Harris finally step up? If Brett Kollmann is to be believed, rookie Andre Hal is a shoe-in, but there must be a reason he fell into the seventh round, right? We'll have to wait and see.
Houston Texans – Offensive Line – HIT
Did we cheat here? Possibly, but after a stunning 2010 season, it wouldn’t have been fair to single out just one member of the Texans offensive line. The line’s success continued up until this year when, like the rest of the team, it wasn’t where it needed to be however, with success stories like Duane Brown and Chris Myers, the unit has definitely lived up to its Superstar billing.
PFF nailed this pick back in 2011. After Matt Schaub finished with the most passing yards in the league, much of the credit was given to the Texans' consistently improving offensive line. Other than the aforementioned Brown and Myers, it was Wade Smith, Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston turning heads.
While everyone else was taking turns getting injured in 2011, the offensive line was relatively healthy and allowed the Texans to field a rookie 5th-rounder in T.J. Yates while paving the way for the powerful running duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
After losing Brisiel, releasing Winston, and Smith's hard regression, the Texans are just barely able to rebuild the line into what it once was. Xavier Su'a-Filo and the returning combination of David Quessenberry and Brennan Williams should help quite a bit.
Which brings us to...
Houston Texans - Brandon Brooks
Brooks’ best performance of the season came in Week 15 against the Colts and helped earn him a spot on our Team of the Month for the final quarter of the season. You might expect a +5.4 grade (+4.1 run block) from a guard to be a story of him annihilating defensive linemen and burying linebackers but these highest grades are accrued by consistency, not flashes of dominance.
Though he is a pretty big guard (reportedly down to 325 pounds last summer) he made hay against the Colts making blocks on the move. Not only working vertically to the second level, Brooks shined moving laterally on pull blocks, demonstrating his versatility beyond the Texans’ base zone offense.
For a first season this wasn’t just a solid set of displays, this was a rousing success for Brooks. His strength as a run blocker and steady play as a pass protector gives the Texans’ offensive line a real axis of strength in the middle next to Chris Myers as they look to re-establish the line under new head coach Bill O’Brien.
This is just a snippet. You can read the full article on Brooks here. It talks about his strengths as a run blocker, some of his struggles against pass rushers and his strong finish to the season.
I bolded the line about versatility. We heard that word used a lot from Bill O'Brien during the NFL Draft. He's told us before that he wants players that can contribute in a variety of ways because he plans on running multiple offenses and defenses from week to week and snap to snap. For this reason, I think Brooks will continue developing and even flourish under his new coaches.
We here at BRB gushed at Brooks' potential when he was drafted. He came in at 350 pounds but was unnaturally quick at that size. We gushed even more and wondered about the possibilities when he entered his second year 25 pounds lighter. Now we at least have one metric confirming his positive growth. It's exciting to think about the Texans developing a formidable offensive line again, and Brooks could be a big part of that for a long time.
Do you agree with Pro Football Focus and their selection of Brandon Brooks as the Texans' potential breakout star? Leave your thoughts below.