There was a time (largely, 2002 through around 2008) when the night the Pro Bowl rosters were revealed was a complete non-event for Texans fans. Well, times have changed, and Wednesday the Texans AFC best 12-3 record was mirrored by having an AFC best eight players (six offense, two defense) named to the Pro Bowl.
To put that in perspective, it took the Texans seven years to get their first eight Pro Bowlers in franchise history. They matched that in one evening on Wednesday. Only San Francisco placed more players in the game with nine (three offense, six defense).
Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is for no Texans to actually play in the game as it takes place during the weekend in between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
Without further ado, here are the Texans eight 2012 Pro Bowlers, along with my own subjective "Surprise Factor," indicating my level of surprise that they received a berth in the game. Scale is 0 to 10, with 0 indicating no surprise at all and 10 being completely shocked (* indicates starter):
DUANE BROWN, tackle* Surprise Factor (0 to 10): 0.3 Oftentimes with offensive linemen, there is a delayed effect in making the Pro Bowl team whereby it takes a year or two of playing at a Pro Bowl level before they actually make the Pro Bowl. Such is the case with Brown, who has been the top left tackle in the AFC for the better part of two years, having gone nearly three seasons without a holding call until last Sunday against Minnesota. There's a reason the Texans locked him into a long-term deal earlier this season. This is validation.
ARIAN FOSTER, running back* Surprise Factor (0 to 10): 0.4 The leading vote getter in fan balloting (which, by the way, is one third of the metric that decides who makes the team; player votes and coaches votes are the other two), Foster is having a decent season from a yardage and touchdowns standpoint, but if you watch him week to week you know this has been by far the roughest of his three full seasons in the league. His average per carry has been around or below 4.0 all season, he's had very few explosive plays, and he's been a non factor in the passing game. Still, if the Texans go to the Super Bowl, it'll be on the back of number 23.
ANDRE JOHNSON, wide receiver* Surprise Factor (0 to 10): 0.2 After a slow start (17 catches during the Texans' 5-0 start), Andre Johnson exploded during a two game, five day, nearly ten quarter stretch where he had 23 catches for 461 yards. That launched a six game stretch where he's been over 95 yards receiving in five of those games. If I had a vote for Texans offensive MVP, it would go to either Johnson or Brown.
JOHNATHAN JOSEPH, cornerback* Surprise Factor (0 to 10): 7.3 The reason there is the delayed effect I talked about earlier with Duane Brown is because you have many players make this game based more on reputation than production. This year Joseph is that guy. Playing through injury, Joseph has missed a few games and been unproductive in a few others. It sounds weird to say this, but you could probably make a better case for Kareem Jackson as a Pro Bowler than Joseph based purely on 2012.
CHRIS MYERS, center Surprise Factor (0 to 10): 3.2 The veteran brains behind the offensive line that's paved the way for the AFC's leading rusher, and a Pro Bowler last season. This is not a big surprise.
MATT SCHAUB, quarterback Surprise Factor (0 to 10): 3.8 The "freak out" factor on Schaub being named a Pro Bowler will be heavy on Houston talk radio Thursday, mostly because Schaub is coming off one of his worst games as a pro in one of his most important games as a pro. However, if you look at the AFC, three quarterbacks need to go. You know Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will be two of them. So who is the third? The only one that you can make a great case with versus Schaub is Andrew Luck, who is statistically (read: passer rating) inferior to Schaub, but who practically every Texans fan would take in a heartbeat over Schaub if you needed to go 80 yards in two minutes to win a game.
WADE SMITH, guard Surprise Factor (0 to 10): 8.1 This one was the most surprising of the eight players named, not because Smith doesn't deserve it, but because he's always been considered kind of a lunch pail guy, always does his job, old reliable Wade. I'm happy that the big man is getting some recognition, and completes the entire left side plus center getting the accolades. (In a weird way, Brown, Smith, and Myers making it inadvertently provides an acute reminder of the mess the right side of the line has been all year.)
J.J. WATT, defensive end* Surprise Factor (0 to 10): -50,000,000.01 No write up necessary. J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in the game. Period.
(NOTE: Five Texans were named alternates at their position: special teamer Bryan Braman, fullback James Casey, tight end Owen Daniels, safety Danieal Manning, and defensive end Antonio Smith.)
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