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Mario Williams is out for the season with a torn pectoral. This is a huge loss for the Texans and their much improved pass rush. Williams has averaged one sack per game, despite missing half of the game against the Raiders. However, if the Texans can get Andre Johnson back, that will be a bigger boost to them than losing Williams.
Andre Johnson is the most important player on the Texans team that is not a quarterback. Anyone that wants to argue that can quickly point out that Matt Schaub threw for 416 yards and two touchdowns. However, upon further review those numbers are not quite what you might expect from a quarterback that throws for over 400 yards. Others will argue that the offense has struggled this year and the defense has put pressure on every quarterback that they have faced.
The most worrisome aspect of it is that despite the fact that Kevin Walter had a solid game with 81 yards and a touchdown (not to mention a fantastic catch) the wide receiver corp totaled less than 100 yards. Jacoby Jones, who just signed a three year $10 million dollar contract, had one reception for nine yards. That pathetic showing was not for lack of opportunities though, Jones had 11 targets in the game. But maybe that’s because he was dealing with the blanket coverage of DeMarcus Van Dyke (who?) and Stanford Routt. Jones was supposed to be replacing Johnson who is in the top 10 in yards per game in the NFL.
Others will claim that the defense will take a bigger step back than the offense without Williams. The defense is currently tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks with 15. Williams has one third of those and will undoubtedly be an enormous loss. The Texans will have to count on rookie Brooks Reed to continue their pass rush. However, it doesn’t come down to just Reed. The Texans can still count on Antonio Smith, who has four sacks, as well as Connor Barwin and JJ Watt. The point is that the Texan’s defense is not a one trick pony. They have several playmakers on the team that can step up and as Jacoby Jones has shown throughout his career, he can not fill in for Andre Johnson.
There is no one on the team that will replace either Johnson or Williams. They are both one of the best at their position in the NFL. They will not be replaced. The question is who can come closer to filling in for them while they are gone and the answer is clear. No one on the team can come close to filling in for Johnson; hopefully Reed and the rest of the defense can step it up and fill in for Williams.