Setting the Stage
Andre Johnson played high school football in Miami, Florida and was rated as one of the top prospects in the country, making the Parade All-American Team. Even though he was widely recruited including an offer to Southern Cal, he stayed home and attended the University of Miami. After red-shirting his first season, he mostly played as a kick returner his second (freshman) season and then started at wide receiver as a sophomore. That year (2001) he caught 37 passes for 685 yards and scored 10 TDs. He was named Rose Bowl MVP as he caught 7 passes for 199 yards and 2 TDs in Miami’s win over Nebraska earning the team’s fifth national championship. As a junior, he continued to improve catching 52 passes for 1,092 yards and 9 TDs. He averaged 19.9 yards per catch and scored 20 TDs during his time at Miami.
He also ran track for the University of Miami winning the 60-meter dash (6.83 seconds) in the Big East indoor championship and also winning the 100-meter championship (10.59 seconds) in the Big East outdoor. He was invited to attend the NFL Combine and ran a fast 4.41 forty-yard dash, for a big man, who measured 6-feet 2 and 229 pounds. His combination of size and speed had him at the top of many NFL team draft boards. He was drafted in the first round (3rd overall) by the Houston Texans. He has spent his entire NFL career (ten seasons) with the Texans and his current contract with the Texans extends through the 2016 season, when he will be 35 years old. He will be paid $6.2 Million in 2013 and also has a $1 Million annual work-out bonus.
A review of his career production (provided in the table below) shows that Johnson has finished among the top ten wide receivers three times and between WR10 and WR23 another four times. Although Johnson played well from the beginning, his production was diminished early on, primarily because the Texans generally struggled (03-06) while David Carr was their starting quarterback. In those four seasons, Johnson never finished higher than WR18. Matt Schaub joined the Texans in 2007 and his play (career 7.8 ypa) immediately improved Johnson’s performance. Even though Johnson was limited to nine games in his first season with Schaub, he scored a career high 8 TDs and was on track for over 1,500 yards. He finished as WR22 that year and has maintained steady high production ever since, when healthy. For their time together, Johnson has averaged 10.6 targets per game.
The Texans ran the ball quite a bit more in 2011 (53.9% of the plays) than they had in any season with Johnson on the team, but several factors that caused this change (1) injuries first to Johnson and then to Schaub, (2) they played a rookie quarterback over the season’s last half and with minimal receiving options, (3) they had a much improved defense, and (4) they had a significant lead division lead and seemingly began to look to the playoffs over the final few games.
Last year, the offensive play percentages shifted back to 52.5% passing, which although still below the league average provided more opportunities for Johnson and the other receivers.
HIs career statistics are provided below:
Looking Forward to 2013
Houston’s offensive line was suspect heading into 2012, but they performed very well. They are the only offensive line in the NFL with three current pro-bowl players (Duane Brown LT, Wade Smith LG, and Chris Myers C. They also added Brennan Williams this year with a third round pick and he may compete for the starting RG position, and David Quessenberry in the sixth round for depth.
Schaub returns at quarterback for a $7.25 Million and the final year of his guaranteed payments. He improved his completion percentage to 64.3% a year ago, but had 12 interceptions and many think that he will need to continue to improve to stay with the team beyond this year. The team finally added a first round wide receiver (DeAndre Hopkins with the 27th overall pick) to play opposite Johnson. He should be the best talent at wide receiver that the team has had since Eric Moulds played in 2006, the year before Schaub joined the team.
The Texans have an excellent running game behind their solid offensive line and Arian Foster, and also have Ben Tate, a talented reserve who is on the final year of his rookie contract. The effectiveness of the running game should allow some production off of play-action, particularly with improved receiving options.
- Johnson remains the most talented wide receiver and a favorite target of Matt Schaub
- Johnson has averaged 10.6 targets per game over his six seasons with Schaub
- The running game’s efficiency forces opposing defenses to respect the running game
- If Schaub continues to make turnovers, they could increase their reliance on the running game
- Some reporters have indicated that Johnson has lost a step
- The improved wide receiver corps with Hopkins could decrease Johnson’s targets
- Johnson has never scored double digit TDs in a season and he only scored 6 TDs in 23 games over the past two seasons
Johnson’s ADP is currently listed as WR10 and 32 overall (WR8 and 25 in ppr scoring) and he has finished in the top ten for the past four consecutive seasons where he played the majority of games. Johnson’s strength could continue to allow him to be successful, even if he has slowed down somewhat.
Johnson's production hasn't dropped off. The 10-year veteran had 112 catches and 1,598 yards in 2012. The reason for the urgency in the Texans organization, according to Pasquarelli, is the notion that some opponents have suggested Johnson has "lost perhaps a half-step, and isn't as explosive." Johnson's game tape agrees with that assessment and it's not a shock for a soon-to-be 32-year-old to lose a bit of athleticism. However, as he demonstrated last season, the former Hurricane isn't reliant on his explosiveness. His size and hands will allow him to play effectively well into his mid-to-late 30s, if he so chooses
Jeff Haseley’s player comments
I am a big fan of Andre Johnson having another strong year. He is clearly the top receiving target of Matt Schaub. That won’t change for 2013. The presence of rookie DeAndre Hopkins will open things up more, which benefits Johnson. I see another 90-100 catch season with the only concern being his ability to score consistently.
Jeff Tefertiller’s player comments
Expect Johnson’s role to remain the same. Injuries are the only concern for the veteran receiver. The addition of Hopkins could actually help keep coverages honest … much moreso that Kevin Walter.
FF Ninja in the Andre Johnson Player Spotlight http://forums.footballguys.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=683975#entry15734851
It was hilarious that the "losing a step" comments last year were so numerous during the period in which AJ wasn't getting as many targets as normal (his production/target was right on pace), then as soon as Houston needed him more, the jibber jabber ceased. As a guy who catches screen passes behind the line of scrimmage as well as plays the deep threat, AJ is a very versatile WR and will find a way to be productive as he slows down. Fortunately for us, he hasn't slowed down yet. He ended the year with his usual 10 targets/game number. The only problem was that his touchdowns were a career low for a 16 game season. But touchdowns are volatile as can be noted by Calvin Johnson's slip from 16 to 5 despite catching 122 balls last year.