Monday Roundup: End of the Year Awards
In this installment on State of the Texans, we get some help from some friendly faces from around the Texans blogosphere. As a group we decided to hand out awards for the regular season and name some important awards for the season.
There were some striking differences in the award categories which will be debate for another time. We hand out awards for Team MVP, Offensive and Defensive MVPs, Rookie of the Year, Most Surprising and Dissapointing Texans of the season and much more.
See if you agree or have thoughts of your own and leave them in the comments below.
Meet the Panel
Alan Burge- Texans writer for the Examiner.
Aaron Close- Co-Host of Luv Ya Steel Blue Podcast, Contributor on State of the Texans
Mike Kerns- Host of Luv Ya Steel Blue Podcast, Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report
Big Ron - One of the best minds when it comes to the Texans, contributes on many Texans sites.
TXCleaver- A trend setter on Twitter, is in tune with the Texans and LSU football.
P.D. Starr- Co-Host of Luv Ya Steel Blue Podcast, Owner and Editor of State of the Texans
( AB) Arian Foster – his fumbling down the stretch is definitely troubling but his overall offensive production has been outstanding and vital for the second consecutive year. He’s third in the league in rushing, fifth in the league in rushing TDs and has amassed 1901 total yards heading into Week 17 which represents 34% of the Texans total offensive output. That’s among the highest percentages of total offensive production any player in the league – and that’s after missing the better part of three weeks at the start of the season. Ben Tate has shown flashes this year and even has a higher per-carry average so some will argue the Texans backs are interchangeable, but Foster’s production combined with his unique vision and cutback ability makes him, outside of a healthy Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, the most valuable player on this team. Honorable mention: Matt Schaub. Hopefully his naysayers now realize how valuable he was to this team. The Texans offensive production dropped off significantly when he went down for the season. With a healthy Schaub and Andre all season, this Texans team could have been the best in the AFC.
(MK) Matt Schaub. I know it isn’t the popular pick, but look how the team was rolling with him and how they are stagnant without him. If he’s healthy, Texans are a Super Bowl contender in the AFC this year.
(AC) Wade Phillips, from 2nd to last place, to 2nd place in 1 year with minimal offseason… is there another choice?
(TXC )Brian Cushing Default pick. The 2011 Texans have been a team in the truest sense. Various players have stepped up throughout the season. Cushing is the pick for me, as he is the emotional leader of the defense and has played at a consistently high level all season.
(PDS) This was a tough one but Johnathan Joseph has turned the secondary into a memory of what they once were. His ability to match up on the opposing teams best player has allowed the Texans defense to evolve as a unit.
(BR) Matt Schaub – Unconventional choice but easily the most irreplaceable player on the 2011 roster. With Schaub the Texans were a legit Super Bowl threat; without him they’re fortunate to have still made the Playoffs and will be a dark horse to advance.
(SS) Brian Cushing. He looks like he’s playing alongside his clone sometimes because he’s everywhere.
(AB) Co-MVPs go to Arian Foster and Duane Brown. Brown, who will likely be the trendy pick here and maybe even for Team MVP, put on some lbs in the offseason but hasn’t lost a bit of his agility. He’s turned into a strong, agile, powerful mauler on the outside. If you break James Harrison’s eye socket on a routine downfield lead block you’re officially badass. Honorable mention: Andre. Everyone has seen how defenses can be far more aggressive against the Texans when #80 isn’t in the lineup.
(MK) Arian Foster. Even with missing three games, Arian has been as solid as any back in the league running the ball and probably the best at catching and running with it.
(AC )Arian Foster misses 2 games, splits reps, and still has a monster year… could be the Texans second HOFer after Andre Johnson.
(TXC) Arian Foster. Another default pick. Foster has had a solid year, despite battling an early hamstring injury. Foster’s contributions as a receiver out of the backfield have added a potent weapon to the Texans offense. Fumbles, slips, and injury kept this from being a no-brainer pick.
(PDS) Arian Foster has been the team’s most consistent offensive player. His ability to catch and run with the football puts him in the top three of running backs in the NFL. He excels in the zone running scheme, but his overall ability makes him a special player that keeps defenses honest with him on the field.
(BR) Chris Myers – Leader of one of, if not the best OL groups in the League, which has been a key to the Texans sustained success through a season sidetracked by injuries. Best player in football at his position this year, and it’s not all that close. HUGE Pro Bowl snub.
(SS) Arian Foster. Hate to see this season without him.
(AB) Johnathan Joseph. While there are several players on the defense worthy of mention, its Joseph’s presence in the secondary that is a key to making Wade Phillips’ pressure defense work. The Texans put their corners on an island and Joseph has consistently shut down half the field, making it easier for Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed to get pressure off the edges and for Brian Cushing, J.J. Watt and DeMeco Ryans to shut down the run. Remove Joseph from the Texans secondary and you’d notice immediately. Wade has several players playing at an extremely high level so it’s difficult to single out one guy as being most valuable but when you do the ‘if you remove this player from the lineup’ exercise, Joseph comes out on top.
(MK) Johnathan Joseph. He transformed this secondary from worst in the league to maybe one of the best. The Texans hit a home run when they opted to go this route over Nnamdi Asomugha. Joseph should get All-Pro consideration this season.
(AC) Jonathan Joseph lock down half the field and give the front seven a chance to get after the QB.. BEST FREE AGENT ACQUISITION EVER BY THE TEXANS!
(TXC) Brian Cushing. The entire unit has played well, with occasionally spectacular performances (see: Barwin and Watt.) Cushing has been the most consistent, anchoring one of the league’s best defenses.
(PDS) Brian Cushing was my pick at the beginning of the season to be the defensive MVP, and he has impressed since week one. He is a sideline to sideline player and is the heart and soul of the front seven. The best thing about him this season is his big play ability, if it is an interception, forced fumble or a sack, he is the most complete player on the defense.
(BR) Johnathan Joseph – The one player in my opinion who has brought about the most drastic change to that unit versus last year. Finally a credible guard for opposing teams’ top receiver, a playmaker, leader among the group, and all around GREAT addition.
(SS) Hard call but J.J. Watt. So solid from Day 1. Run, pass, effort plays.
Rookie of the Year
(AB) J.J. Watt. Steady, intense, dominating. And he’s still learning the position.
(MK) J.J. Watt. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous season that Von Miller and Aldon Smith are having, Watt just might be the defensive rookie of the year in the NFL. He’s so good at what he does the referees think it is an unfair advantage and the penalize him for playing defense.
(AC) J.J. Watt. JJ Watt, This was close with Brooks Reed but his dominate play against the Colts pushed him over the top.
(TXC) JJ Watt. Watt edges Brooks Reed here, but not by a wide margin. Watt seemed to explode through the rookie wall, and played both the run and pass consistently. Reed has already shown the athleticism in rushing the passer that could make him a star.
(PDS) Have to go with the Co-Rookie of the Year with J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed. J.J. Watt was an un-sexy pick at #11 but has developed into a prototype 3-4 defensive end. He has helped this defense make the adjustment to the 3-4 scheme. The reason I have to put Reed in here, is because of his ability to soften the blow of losing Mario Williams for the season. Reed has played exceptional against the run and pass, he has had his moments of being a rookie. He has been so steady he makes fans forget at times that he replaced Williams off the edge. Both players have been excellent picks for the Texans in 2011.
(Big Ron) J.J. Watt – No-brainer selection. Absolute home run draft pick. Everything he was billed as and then some. Ridiculous number of snaps taken with truly amazing consistency for an early entry rookie playing an extremely tough position.
(SS) JJ Watt. Last time a college fan base enthused a ton about an incoming player this much was DeMeco Ryans. Wisconsin fans love JJ Watt.
Comeback Player of the Year
(AB) Connor Barwin. One year after suffering a grotesque ankle break, Barwin leads the team in sacks making a seamless transition from 4-3 defensive end to playing outside linebacker in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense.
(MK) Brian Cushing. After a horrible sophomore season and losing twenty pounds, it looked like Cush was going to continue to decline. But not only has he been the anchor of the Texans defense this season, but he’s been one of the best linebackers in all of football. Honorable mention to Brice McCain who has shown that he actually has a future in the NFL.
(AC) Connor Barwin I didn’t think he was that good as a rookie, last year he missed what was supposed to be a break out year, but this year he played above his pay grade…
(TXC) Brian Cushing. Cushing returned with the explosiveness of his rookie year, shutting down theories that he couldn’t play without “overtraining.” Cushing was banged up last year, with injuries that were likely more severe than reported. Combining the injuries and the ill effects of being in close proximity to Frank Bush, Cushing was poised for a big return and he’s done just that.
(PDS) Brian Cushing ,After being put out of position Cushing looked like he was clueless at times in 2010, and was potentially looking like a draft bust with his substance abuse issues too. Cushing has comeback full force and erased all of the bad memories from a horrid sophomore season.
(BR) (Tie) Connor Barwin & Ben Tate – Both key young players have made the major contributions expected of them a year ago after each bouncing back terrifically from horrible, early season ankle/lower leg injuries. Their respective numbers in 2011 say it all.
(SS) Has to be Connor Barwin. Insert picture of Barwin’s twisted foot here.
Biggest Surprise (Player)
(AB) In terms of performance, the fact that Brooks Reed stepped in and took over for Mario Williams without the Texans defense skipping a beat was a pleasant surprise, as was Glover Quin who has played very well after moving to safety. As far as player health, Danieal Manning’s speedy recovery from a broken fibula was nothing short of amazing.
(MK) Connor Barwin. A rookie season where he seemed out of place coupled with a severe ankle injury last year and it was up in the air as to what to expect from Barwin in 2011. What we’ve gotten is a guy who has exploded into a premiere pass rusher in the NFL. Wade Phillips set this guy free.
(AC) Brian Cushing.. After seeing how small he looked in preseason, I was worried he would never be the same player again.. and I was right he won’t.. he will me one mean SOB with a chip on his shoulder for years to come…
(TXC) Glover Quin. The hand-wringing of fans pondering whether Quin should move from CB to safety seems rather silly in hindsight. Quin looks like a natural at safety and has shown a good nose for the ball. Quin should only get better with experience, but year one at safety was a pleasant surprise. (Note: multiple other players were good candidates, but were not a big surprise due to expectations – e.g. Manning, Reed, Tate.)
(PDS) Brice McCain Besides Joseph, Brice McCain has had no other player take his spot of the nickel corner. McCain has been exceptional in the slot and has made some big plays from his position. He has provided speed and sure tackler from the secondary. He has come out of nowhere to be a key piece to the Texan secondary for years to come.
(BR) Glover Quin – GQ’s move from CB to SS was a significant question mark in the off season. As the year has unfolded, I couldn’t be more pleasantly surprised at both how seamless and effective the transition has been. Both in run support and coverage, aside from Joseph, Quin has been the biggest factor to the Texans improved play on the back end.
(SS) Jonathan Joseph. Most free agents are raging disappointments. Joseph is worth the money.
Biggest Disappointment (Player)
(AB) Kareem Jackson. His small cadre of defenders say cut him some slack. Why? He’s a first round pick who rarely plays like one. Runner up (tie): Jacoby Jones’s inability to establish himself as a legit #2 wideout and Eric Winston who’s the 4th best lineman on the Texans o-line heading into Week 17 only because Mike Brisiel is out.
(MK) Brandon Harris. I know it seems kind of harsh to get on a rookie when he hasn’t even played much. But to constantly be inactive means you aren’t even doing your job in special teams. I hope he is just a victim of the numbers game and not another blown high draft pick on a corner.
(AC) James Casey, where the hell did you go boy? Had a break out game then hasn’t made an impact since..
(TXC) Andre Johnson. It pains me to write this, but the best player in team history has had the most disappointing season in team history. With the Texans finally fielding a complete team around Johnson, two injuries have wrecked his season (and seriously damaged the Texans’ season.) Going into the season, Andre Johnson was poised to firmly establish himself as the best wide receiver in football. The disappointment of this season will seem like a footnote if Johnson can return to the playoffs and contribute to a win.
(PDS) Jacoby Jones From what I saw during training camp, really thought he took a leadership role from the wide receiver position. He was catching and looking like a different player, and he had a huge punt return for a touchdown in week 1. I know he is great returner, but his ability as a wide receiver is nonexistent. With his contract extension big things were on the horizon, but we are still waiting.
(BR) Jacoby Jones – Myriad injuries to starters are the biggest, but for guys who’ve played the duration, Jacoby’s lack of impact is #1 on the disappointment scale, especially in the absence of #80. After signing a new 3-year/$10 million deal prior to the season, Jones still hasn’t even become a reliable catcher of the football let alone a real play making threat. Aside from the occasional decent punt return, Jacoby’s impact has unfortunately been minimal.
(SS) Injuries to Matt Schaub, Mario Williams. If they are healthy right now, Texans are number 1 seed. Certainly. Maybe I’m making Super Bowl reserves early.
Player to Watch for the playoffs
(AB) T. J. Yates. Will the rookie regain the poise and control he had in his first two starts?
(MK) T.J. Yates. I don’t know how there can be any other answer to this question. His ability to make plays are either going to doom the Texans or propel them to playoff success. Check downs and Arian Foster aren’t going to be enough alone for Yates to be successful in the postseason.
(AC) Andre Johnson Hall of Famers are made in the play offs I’m thrilled to see him get the chance to show the whole country what an amazing talent he is and lead the team deep into the playoffs!
(TXC) T.J. Yates. There are few variables with this Texans team. The defense will play well. Kareem will get burned once or twice. Foster and Tate will move the chains. Yates (and Andre Johnson) are the key to keeping the defense on the sidelines and getting some points on the board. The defense can’t shut down any offense for four quarters if the offense can’t stay on the field. Yates will have to make plays downfield for that to happen.
(PDS) T.J. Yates, it is a simple as this, the Texans will only go as far as Yates play let’s them. He is the catalyst of this offense, and he has to find his groove early.
(BR) Andre Johnson - Set to play just in time to get a game in prior to his first career playoff appearance (we hope). I just can’t wait to finally see #80 on the Playoff stage. Should be a huge lift to the squad, even though it’ll be Yates and not Schaub throwing him the rock.
(SS) T.J. Yates. They go as far as he allows them. Hard to play hide the QB in the playoffs
Biggest Win in 2011
(AB) Cincinnati. An improbable come from behind victory on the road, led by a rookie QB, followed minutes later by a Titans loss to the Colts which game the Texans their first AFC South Division title and playoff appearance in history, setting off a big fan welcome at Reliant Stadium and a few rare days of euphoria for Texans fans. It’s not only the biggest win in 2011 but quite possibly the biggest win in team history. Runner up: beating Atlanta the previous week.
(MK) Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 4. I know that the Cincinnati game is going to be the popular answer, but for a team that was always accused of never being able to get over the hump against good teams and “playing soft,” they won that game playing Steelers style football. That showed me something.
(AC) Hasn’t happened yet..
(TXC) Cincinnati. I pondered this question for about a nanosecond. It is not hyperbole to say that was the biggest win in team history. The win sealed a playoff spot, and happened in dramatic (heroic!?) fashion. Regardless of what happens the rest of this injury-riddled season, that win will bring a smile to my face for years.
(PDS) Atlanta. This is the game that proved to everyone that Yates has what it takes to make things happen. The offense and defense played exceptional and the atmosphere was electric, plus the Texans faced an NFC power and won with their rookie quarterback. This game set them up for the next week against Cincinnati.
(BR) Dec. 4th, Falcons at Texans. I was in the building for the loudest, most hype game at Reliant Stadium. T.J. Yates 1st start. Bulls on Parade showed up big. Yates threw for 188 and a TD, no picks. Dre had 4 for 97 with a 50 yard catch before pulling his *other hammy. Foster and Tate went for 150+ with Arian toting 31 for 111 and a TD. Awesome game. Texans W, 17-10.
(SS) Bengals. Can’t tell you how many people told me how they cried after the game. How they cried at the impromptu party with the team at Reliant.
Team Need heading into 2012
(AB) A legit deep threat wide receiver to line up opposite Andre Johnson. A dominating nose tackle would also be nice.
(MK) Wide Receiver. This team cannot continue to trot Andre Johnson and just some dudes out there anymore while holding their breath that Andre doesn’t come up lame on each play. They need a legit #2 now that has the talent to be groomed for that #1 spot for life after Andre in Houston.
(AC) Depth at WR and Secondary…
(TXC) The team’s primary need is for Wade Phillips to return. Personnel-wise, the Texans need to massively upgrade WR. The Texans currently have a WR1 (Johnson), WR3 (Walter), WR5 (Jones) and practice squad guys. They need to make WR2 a priority, with the idea that the player can move to WR1. They should also look to add depth at corner back and offensive line. A big, fat nose tackle wouldn’t be bad either.
(PDS) A receiver with over the top speed that can catch, a nose tackle that can eat up space, and most importantly for Wade Phillips to retire with the Texans organization.
(BR) Wide Receiver – It’s time for the Texans to place a priority on getting a WR with #1 ability to develop as a legit big play threat. It’s time to find the heir apparent to #80. He isn’t on the roster right now, and this season lets us know he definitely needs to be.
(SS) Best available player. Actually, not thinking about tomorrow. Who knows, maybe someone else gets hurt.
You can P.D. Starr here on Twitter.