Nearly five years ago to this day (Feb. 26, 2011), I wrote a piece for Bleacher Report naming the top 10 players in Houston Texans’ franchise history. I must admit that five years makes a big difference. The list I’ve put together today looks much different than it did in February 2011.
In Houston’s first 14 years of existence, these are the top 10 players in franchise history:
10. WR DeAndre Hopkins (2013-present)
D-Hop just finished his third season in the league, catching 111 passes for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns (all career-highs) in 2015. Despite playing just 48 games in Houston, I had a very hard time leaving Hopkins off the list. At age 23, he already finds himself in the middle of the “top five receivers in football” debate. He’s now put up back-to-back 1,200 yard seasons despite catching passes from QBs such as Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden. Looking forward to watching Hopkins over the next 10 years or so.
9. LB DeMeco Ryans (2006-11)
Ryans, 31, was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles a few days ago following a four-year tenure in Philly. But prior to his Eagles stint, Ryans was a centerpiece in the Houston Texans’ defense for six seasons, going to two Pro Bowls (’07 and ’09) during that time. The starting middle linebacker had just one injury-plagued season (2010), which kept him out for 10 games. Other than that one season, Ryans was the staple that held Houston’s defense together, putting up four 100-tackle seasons and tallying over 600 combined tackles and 26 passes defensed in 86 starts.
8. C Chris Myers (2008-14)
Much like Ryans was on defense, Chris Myers was an anchor for the Houston Texans, holding together the offensive line for seven seasons. Myers, a two-time Pro Bowl center, never missed a start for Houston, starting 112 games over his seven years. Myers made back-to-back Pro Bowl rosters in 2011 and 2012.
7. OT Duane Brown (2008-present)
Brown, a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All Pro, has protected the blindside for Houston over the last eight seasons, starting 120 games at left tackle. He’s been the mainstay and anchor along the front line for three playoff teams and at age 30 he still has plenty left in the tank.
6. QB Matt Schaub (2007-13)
Overall, Schaub’s professional football career hasn’t been the best, but his time in Houston was great. He spent seven of his 12 seasons in Houston, earning both of his Pro Bowl selections while in a Texans uniform (’09 and ’12). With a 46-42 record as starter, Schaub owns the franchise records in completions (1,951), attempts (3,020), passing yards (23,221), touchdowns (124), yards/game (258.0) and QB rating (90.9). It was Schaub who finally led Houston to a postseason appearance for the first time in 2011.
5. LB Brian Cushing (2009-present)
Cushing has had a couple of injury-plagued seasons that have hurt his production, and his place amongst the all-time great Texans. But overall Cushing has still produced at the linebacking position, and finally started a full season of 16 games again this season. He finished with over 100 tackles for the third time in his career, and for the first time since the ’11 season. His first three seasons in the league are still his best, including career-highs in tackles (133), sacks (4.0) and interceptions (4) as a rookie in ’09.
4. DE Mario Williams (2006-11)
The monster 6’6″/290-pound defensive end has spent his last four seasons in Buffalo, under-performing with just 19 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 2015. But prior to his Buffalo stint, Williams, the No. 1 overall pick in 2006, racked up 53.0 sacks in his six years with the Texans, including two double-digit sack seasons in 2007 and 2008. Overall, the 31-year old Super Mario is just four sacks shy from hitting the 100.0 career sack plateau.
3. RB Arian Foster (2009-present)
Foster is, by far, the best running back to put on a Texans uniform, demolishing the franchise records in rushing attempts (1,454), yards (6,472) and touchdowns (54) in his seven seasons. Despite missing 23 games in the last three seasons with lagging injuries, Foster has started 68 games and has racked up four 1,200-yard rushing seasons and three seasons of 10+ rushing touchdowns. Sadly, however, the four-time Pro Bowler’s NFL career is quickly dwindling away as he approaches the age-30 wall.
2. DE J.J. Watt (2011-present)
Prior to 2011, Williams was the team’s best pass-rusher. And, to be honest, it wasn’t even really a close battle. But then J.J. Watt appeared and stole the hearts of Houston fans. The pass-rushing demon (who, just so happens, is also a 6’6″/290-pound DE) has racked up a franchise-record 74.5 sacks in just five seasons (80 starts). The 26-year old is already a three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year and four-time First Team All-Pro. Watt has two 20.5-sack seasons, and is one of only two players in NFL history to win three AP Defensive Player of the Year awards (Lawrence Taylor). Not bad for just five seasons in the league, I suppose.
1. WR Andre Johnson (2003-14)
Perhaps the only thing that’s keeping Johnson in this spot, and preventing Watt from jumping him on the list, is longevity. Watt only has five seasons under his belt, while Andre Johnson played 12 seasons with Houston and put up some great numbers despite having to catch passes from a number of horrific quarterbacks. Johnson, a seven-time Pro Bowler in a Houston uniform, had five seasons with 100+ catches, seven 1,000-yard seasons and 64 career touchdown catches. He’s a member of the exclusive 1,000-catch club (only 13 members; ranks eighth all-time) and the 10,000-yard club (45 members; ranks ninth all-time). So yeah, Andre1000 will go down with some of the greats.
QB David Carr
RB Domanick Williams
RB Steve Slaton
TE Owen Daniels
OT Chester Pitts
DT Seth Payne
DT Amobi Okoye
DT Gary Walker
CB Aaron Glenn
CB Dunta Robinson
CB Kareem Jackson
K Kris Brown
Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images