A lot can change in just over two weeks. Two weeks ago, Matt Schaub was the Texans "best" quarterback. Two weeks ago, Brian Cushing's knee wasn't mangled from a vicious hit. Two weeks ago, Danieal Manning wasn't out with a mysterious "leg" injury. Even Owen Daniels was still playing, though he should return. Also, the Texans season was still worth salvaging. Today, not so much.
Without questions, when taking a look at our Best Texan category from this year's Best of Houston®, there are names that will be left off either due to ineptitude or season-ending injury. It makes for a tough situation for the team but a much more interesting list of players for our Rest of the Best.
Note: Players like Manning and Cushing won't make the list because they are done for the year and Daniels doesn't make it because he will miss most of the season. Also, no Case Keenum because his body of work is only four quarters. Now, ask us this question again after the Indy game, and you could get a different answer.
10. Shane Lechler
Holy crap, you guys, there's a punter on our top 10 list! As awful as special teams have been all season, punter Shane Lechler has been money, often pinning opponents deep within their own end of the field. At one point a few games ago, it could have been argued (not successfully, but still) that he was the season MVP for the team thus far.
9. Chris Meyers
The offensive line has been just average this year, but you can't blame it on Meyers who is a stead as a rock at the center position. Even with three different quarterbacks rotating through the lineup, I can't recall a single mishandled snap, which is remarkable.
8. Antonio Smith
The "Ninja Assassin" has 2.5 sacks through today, which isn't remarkable, but his tough play inside remains a strength of the defense. He also should make the all-quote team with his candor even after difficult losses. It will be tough to keep Smith next year when they will need his cap space, but they should try for the quotes alone.
7. Jonathan Joesph/Kareem Jackson (tie)
It's hard to understand just how far Jackson has come until you realize that fans wanted to run him out of town on a rail by the end of his rookie year. Now, he along with Joseph is one of the strengths of the defense. They have made their mistakes this season, but they are forced into one-on-one match ups most of the game and the fact you don't hear their names called often in a negative way is pretty astonishing.
6. Ben Tate
Tate isn't in the form he was two years ago when he nearly ran for 1,000 yards as Foster's back up, but he's running well with his characteristic downhill style. He still fumbles more than he should, but he is one of the best second backs in the NFL.
5. DeAndre Hopkins
It took the Texans years to decide to give Andre Johnson help at the second wide receiver spot, but when they did, they obviously got it right. Hopkins is a stud with huge hands and disciplined route running. He is a worth heir apparent to Johnson.
4. Duane Brown
Brown doesn't appear to be having the season he had two years ago, but he is still one of the best at his position in the league. Some of his backsliding may be the result of a less than cohesive offensive line, but even with the confusion and lack of experience on the other side, Brown is a rock solid left tackle.
3. Andre Johnson
The guy just keeps making plays. He has been in the league for years and yet he is STILL wide open so often. It's a testament to his discipline and monstrous athletic talent that he remains a very tough cover. If this guy doesn't make it to the Hall of Fame eventually, it will only be because the team was so terrible for so long.
2. Arian Foster
He's back. After a lackluster 2012 season, Foster is running like himself again with the great burst and incredible vision we've come to expect. He also is terrific at picking up the blitz, an underrated skill for a back. His hamstring tweak came a week before a bye, which should give him time to rest. And they'll need him in the second half, especially if they are starting a rookie.
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1. JJ Watt
Was there ever any doubt? I'll let my colleague Sean Pendergast's words do the talking:
What Houstonians now know, and what the rest of the National Football League is quickly learning, is that Watt's "going to work" means a whole lot more than the punching of the proverbial clock.
When J.J. Watt goes to work, records get set, money gets raised, mountains get moved. In the Texans' 3-4 defense, defensive ends typically don't pile up big sack numbers, yet in 2012, Watt came within an eyelash of breaking the NFL record for sacks in a season with 20 1/2. For good measure, Watt added 16 passes defended, a stat normally reserved for defensive backs. Not surprisingly, he took home the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year honor.