In order for a good team to win a championship, they need players that aren’t superstars to step up and play like champions. In the case of the Texans, we have seen more than a few players step up and play beyond what many would think they could.
Right Side of the Offensive Line
Many people looked at the loss of Mario Williams as a nearly impossible hole to fill, but true fans knew that losing perennial All-Pro right tackle Eric Winston, and right guard Mike Briesel, would be far more difficult to deal with. The Texans filled that gaping hole with a second-year, seventh-round pick in Derek Newton; a rookie who most recently played center at Georgia in Ben Jones; a free agent they signed a week before the season started in Ryan Harris; and a career backup in Antoine Caldwell.
No one could have expected that group to step up the way they have this season and along with the elite left side of the line and the best center in the league, the Texans offensive line has made a name for itself.
The right side of the offensive line receives the Biggest Surprise Award, for their consistent play and ability to step up and continue to keep Matt Schaub standing up.
At the beginning of the preseason our kicker was Randy Bullock, our punter was Brett Hartmann, and our returner was Trindon Holliday. We put Bullock on the IR with a torn groin, Hartmann was cut and Trindon Holliday was also cut after the season began.
Donnie Jones and Shayne Graham have represented two of the biggest special teams steals in recent memory as Jones is consistently preventing returns and pinning teams inside the 20, and Graham has made all but one of his kicks this season.
Alan Ball deserves recognition as well. He was a Dallas Cowboy last year and had many fans calling for his had all season as he was constantly being burned, much like the rest of their secondary. While Ball has played a little corner for us this year the biggest service he has provide the team has been as a gunner on special teams by making big hits and stopping punts inside the five on a regular basis.
The Special Teams receives the Hardest Working Award, as they have made huge strides from the players they were even two months ago.
Anyone who watched the last few weeks of the season last year knew that J.J. Watt was going to be a good player. No one expected him to lead the league in sacks through seven weeks and be in the top ten in pass deflections. When you draft someone with the 11th overall pick, you expect them to be a consistent contributor and one of the best players on that side of the ball. Watt has surpassed that hope and has many in Houston already clamoring for a bust in Canton.
J.J. Watt receives the Surprise Super Beast Award, for being the best player in the NFL as a second year player in a scheme that he didn’t play in college. He hasn’t even reached his prime yet which has a lot of people wondering, who can block him when he does?
Kareem Jackson was the Texans whipping boy two years ago. He was literally the worst corner in the NFL in targets, catches and touchdowns against. Many fans began to question the use of a first round draft pick on a corner back that couldn’t turn his head and the best case scenario when his man was targeted was for him to commit interference to prevent yards after the catch.
Last year he split time with Jason Allen and had a ton of pressure taken off of him as he was now covering the opposing team’s second receiver as opposed to their best. Even after last season no one could have expected that Jackson would be the best secondary player the Texans have.
Jackson has certainly been the most pleasant surprise as he is now confident enough to stick with his man and play the ball at the last second. He has stepped up when the team needs him most and has helped make the Texans one of the most feared defenses in the league.
Kareem Jackson receives the Surprisingly Most Improved Player Award, for being hands down the most improved player on the team and potentially the NFL.