April 19, 2014

But He is a Good Blocking Wide Receiver

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This seems to be the battle cry when it comes to fans talking about the wide receiver opposite of Andre Johnson, “but he is a good blocking wide receiver“. Unfortunately for Houston Texans fans and their offense, it sometimes seems acceptable NOT to have a wide receiver that has game breaking ability. I enjoy the idea of having a possession wide receiver in offense but they have to either be a touchdown machine or command some defenders when they are on the field.

The Texans, like we all know, are deficient at the wide receiver position despite having a top one in Johnson on the roster. Now don’t get me wrong, while Kevin Walter is a great compliment to Johnson when they are in the lineup together, Walter’s lack of play making abilities are hidden playing second wide receiver. Case and point, in 2011 when Johnson went down with his hamstring injuries Walter never established himself as the go to guy in the passing game. Walter was just another guy on the field and his skill set has diminished over the years and poses no real threat on offense. Blame it on the lack of targets, T.J. Yates, the running game or whatever the excuse may be, the fact is that Walter and other wide receivers who suited up for the Texans were not very good.

Texans 2011 Wide Receiver Stats

Andre Johnson

7 games | 33 receptions | 492 yards | 2 touchdowns | 14.9 yards a reception | 70.3 yards a game

Kevin Walter

15 games | 39 receptions | 474 yards | 3 touchdowns | 12.2 yards a reception | 31.6 yards a game

Jacoby Jones

16 games | 31 receptions | 512 yards | 2 touchdowns | 16.5 yards a reception | 32.0 yards a game

Bryant Johnson

15 games | 6 receptions | 90 yards | 1 touchdown | 15.0 yards a reception | 6.5 yards a game

Derrick Mason

7 games | 4 receptions | 55 yards | 0 touchdowns | 9.2 yards a reception | 7.9 yards a game

David Anderson

2 games | 1 reception | 9 yards | 0 touchdowns | 9.o yards a reception | 4.5 yards a game

 

This possibly could have been the worse wide receiving group in the NFL in 2011, talent wise and production, and we understand that having then rookie T.J. Yates controlling the offense numbers were skewed for the team. The Texans wide receivers accounted for 40% of the team’s total receptions, which ranked dead last in the AFC South (Jaguars 50%, Titans 54%, Colts 66%). With Matt Schaub, the Texans the past two seasons had the wide receivers getting the bulk of the receptions (2009-56%, 2001-55%) so not having the veteran quarterbacking was an obvious issue.

Teams and fans should want their receiving group to be skill players who can threaten defenses with or without the ball. Defenses are able to single up on the Texans wide receivers opposite of Johnson and commit more players to the box. Without that threat to keep secondaries honest, they can stack the box with safeties to slow down the running game. Which makes the running game of 2011 that much more impressive without any true threats on the outside, after Johnson was absent from the offense. Just think if the Texans were able to turn the wide receiver opposite of Johnson to any type of threat on offense, guys like Arian Foster, Owen Daniels and James Casey could have even bigger seasons. Foster, Daniels and Casey will more times than not win their one on one matchups but there has to be a concerted effort to get wide receivers in the depth chart to be real threats in the offense.

Last season showed what the receiving group looked like without Johnson and the Texans should not chance that again. With Johnson’s injury history, the Texans look to have started the process of correcting this issue from last season by drafting two wide receivers and now putting some stock into second year wide receiver Lestar Jean. This season’s group should have more potential than the 2011 season’s week 1 group in Johnson, Walter, Jones and Bryant Johnson, and the early signs look like the Texans could possibly take five wide receivers into week 1 against the Miami Dolphins.

It is a reality that the Texans’ fan base has to get passed the “Good Blocking Wide Receiver” thought process and move on to wanting more than one real threat at wide receiver. Yes, Kevin Walter may have caught the most important touchdown in franchise history but the fact remains he is an average wide receiver in the NFL, at best. We can point fingers at whoever, but the wide receiver group of the Texans is probably the weakest position group of the team. When you have one of the best in Johnson, there was time to strengthen other positions along the way with picks and signings. Now the time has run out and the Texans are now left scrambling trying to fix the issue with a crop of young and unproven players.

The Texans have to play that game of building for the future with this season in mind, but looking at the young group in Keshawn Martin, DeVier Posey and Jean, without catching a NFL pass or having any real time in the NFL, they are already a better looking group than last seasons. The growing issue for fans is the fact that rookie wide receivers may be getting some important snaps for the 2012 season which possibly could cause issues for the offense if they do not get acclimated to the NFL game speed soon enough. It could be an issue for the offense but rookies have to start somewhere and that time appears to be now.

 

  • Lydia

    Great article! I too have heard the blocking argument used frequently and think it’s a copout.

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  • http://www.stateofthetexans.com rb

    I’m not quite in agreement as it pertains to Kubiak’s offense. I understand the argument but I’m not sold on it yet. I believe Kubiak wants an “Ed McCaffrey” at the #2 wide receiver position. Reliable, consistent, and above all else a team player. Based on the recent numbers, the passing game consists of Foster, AJ and OD…then everyone else. Do the Texans have enough footballs to go to another top wr? In theory, the more weapons the better but we have also seen that “more weapons mean more problems” i.e. everyone wants the ball and there’s only one ball to go around.

    It is hard to find a wr that will throw his body at a 260lb linebacker and that’s what KW does. I believe Posey, Martin and Jean will fill in nicely but don’t expect any of these guys to willingly volunteer to jump in front of a 260lb linebacker. In other words, be careful what you wish for – a highly productive #2 wr will most likely not want to sacrifice his body, therefore the running game could be hurt and the Texans’ running game sets up the pass.

    Just a thought….

    • Patrick D. Starr

      Once again not a big fan where the wide receiver is a great blocker argument. It’s not like the young guys can’t and won’t do it? Heck Jacoby Jones did it. You actually think Kubiak is going to put a wide receiver on the field that won’t block? Kubiak won’t stand for that. McCaffery >>>>> Walter.

      • http://www.stateofthetexans.com rb

        I’m not saying the young guys can’t and won’t block, but if they don’t know the offense and who to block, then they are liabilities.

        I think Kubiak will play the #2 wr that will and can block above average, knows the offense inside and out, and is an overall reliable, team player….and in my opinion (and probably Kubiak’s), that guy this year is Kevin Walter. I don’t think three rookies are the answer or any of the possible free agents out there are either. However, I do think Jean, Posey and Martin will bring an added dimension to the offense, but collectively, not individually as the #2. We will probably see various combinations at #2/#3 wr.

        What #2 in the league would you want if you could pick? And, who would come in and expect to only have 30-40 balls thrown his way for a year but needs to run into linebackers 10 times a game? Dez Bryant is probably the best #2 and I just don’t see him playing the #2 role in the Texans offense without presenting some issues in the huddle.

        It’s a great topic for discussion. And it creates great opinions on the subject.

        • Patrick D. Starr

          Why are they in the NFL if they can’t block. Has to be apart of their game from day one, and probably has already been preached to them since they walked into Reliant.

          Realistic #2 for me would be someone like Torrey Smith (Ravens) Big vertical threat that can go across the middle. He had 50 receptions for 841 and 7 TDs. That is a #2, and what should be expected of them.

          • http://www.stateofthetexans.com rb

            I’m not debating if they can block or not, I question if three college rookies know who to block in Kubiak’s zone scheme better than KW, that’s all.

            Great choice! I would LOVE to have Torrey Smith as my #2 wr….who wouldn’t want Smith….he wll probably be Baltimore’s #1 wr this year. However, averaging 16.8yds per catch with only 50 receptions seems to say “one trick pony” – deep routes.

            Posey, Martin and Jean might be the next “Torrey Smith like” player you wish to have but as it is today, none of them are even close because none of them have played one NFL down.

            I will agree with you in that I’m hoping Jean (or Posey or Martin) take over the #2 wr spot at some point this year and provides the production and intangibles for the Texans to be successful. I just think KW starts the season as the #2.

            I’m with ya buddy – we both want a winner!

  • Louie

    My thoughts exactly. The breakdown of last years guys is both eye-opening and scary. One of these young guys has got to step up and push Walter.

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