Mario Williams (Getty Images)
The AFC Pro Bowl Roster was announced Tuesday afternoon and the Texans have two players that will be packing their bags and making the trip to Hawaii. Although the main goal for the team was to make the playoffs, the notoriety of excellence from the NFL community is something that could propel the Texans stars as they enter the offseason.
Wide receiver Andre Johnson was selected to his third Pro Bowl and he is on pace for the best season of his career. Johnson has 103 receptions (tied for the most in his career) for 1408 yards (a career high) with six receiving touchdowns on the season. His 103 receptions and 1408 yards lead the NFL through 14 games.
Although Johnson is a quiet, unselfish leader, the Texans coaching staff has figured out that to maximize their success on offense, the ball must find Johnson.
“We always try to get him balls,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. “I carry a little sheet with me in the back of my pocket, I’ve done it for years. How to get X the ball, how to get Z the ball, how to get Y the ball. I’ve always done that. Believe me, his list is long. Sometimes people do things defensively that you have to try to make some big plays by using him in certain situations to get the coverage you want, and he is very unselfish from that standpoint. As I’ve always told you, the reason to me he’s special is because I can move him all over the place and it doesn’t bother him. There are some players that you ask them to play too many spots and they get bogged down. He says, ‘Where do you want me to go? I’ll play inside, outside, I’ll do whatever you want me to do.’”
The second Texan to earn the trip to paradise is defensive end Mario Williams. After being snubbed a year ago when he recorded 14 sacks, Williams finally has his rightful place as a member of the AFC Pro Bowl team. Williams has been a force despite routinely facing double-teams, as he has recorded 11 sacks and four forced fumbles. Those 11 sacks and four forced fumbles rank him second among AFC defensive ends.
The selections of Johnson and Williams come as virtually no surprise, as these two were certainly dominant all season long. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the voting process was the snubbing of Texans rookie running back Steve Slaton, in favor of Chris Johnson and Ronnie Brown.
Slaton received an opportunity to play right away this season thanks to the health questions of Ahman Green, and has certainly made the most of it. Slaton has run for 1124 yards on the season on just 230 carries for a stellar average of 4.9 yards per carry. Slaton also has eight touchdowns. His 1124 yards ranks him third in the AFC, and he’s also added 40 receptions for 305 yards and a touchdown.
“I just think he never stops his speed,” Kubiak said of his star rusher who leads the AFC with 12 rushes of 20+ yards, and four rushes of 40+ yards. “When he gets in crowds his stature sometimes it gets lost in there. They’ll think he’s down and he’s still moving and our guys keep working up front. That’s a sign of a good football team. Everybody knows you have to run, and at the end of the game you still find a way to run it. That’s a nice step forward for us.”
The Texans young back has more yards from scrimmage than Chris Johnson, who was selected ahead of him, and has more explosive plays. Slaton has nearly 400 more yards from scrimmage than Ronnie Brown, and four times as many explosive plays. There’s a pretty easy case that can be made for Slaton over both the Titans and Dolphins backs.