As the Houston Texans' 2017 season has gone from intriguing with Deshaun Watson at quarterback to downright depressing with anyone else under center, not to mention the injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus derailing the defense, there have remained two big reasons to tune into the team each and every weekend.
Honestly, after Sunday's 45-7 drubbing at the hands of the Jaguars, they might be the only two reasons — wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney. Those two have stood up week in and week out, and as a reward for their efforts, each was named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in their respective careers.
Hopkins is in the middle of a gigantic statistical bounce back from a 2016 season in which we found out who the one person is that can shut Hopkins down — Brock Osweiler. With Osweiler as his quarterback, Hopkins barely cracked the 900 yard mark last season, but that didn't deter the Texans from making him the highest paid receiver ($49 million in guaranteed money) in all of football before the start of the 2017 season.
All he's done this season is put together the most dominant receiving season in the history of the team, and with three different quarterbacks pulling the trigger. Per Texans media relations:
Through 14 games this season, Hopkins has posted 92 receptions for 1,313 yards (14.3 avg.) and a single-season franchise-record 12 touchdowns on 168 targets. He is one of six players in NFL history to post those numbers through his team’s first 14 games and the second youngest. He ranks first in the NFL in targets, tied for fourth in receptions, second in receiving yards, first in receiving touchdowns and second in receiving first downs with 66. He has an NFL-best 11 games with 70-or-more receiving yards and an NFL-best nine games with seven-or-more receptions. Hopkins has caught a touchdown in an NFL-high and franchise-record nine different games this season and has five games with over 100 yards receiving.
Like Hopkins, Clowney is headed to his second career Pro Bowl, after representing the Texans at last season's game. After spending his first two seasons more injured than healthy, Clowney came into his own in 2016, and went from very good to truly dominant in 2017. Per Texans media relations:
Clowney has already set single-season career highs in sacks (9.0), tackles for loss (20), quarterback hits (20), forced fumbles (two) and fumble recoveries (two), while starting all 14 games this year. Clowney’s 20 tackles for loss are the most in the AFC and the second-most in the NFL this season. He’s also had two games with five-or-more total tackles, 2.0-or-more sacks and three-or-more tackles for loss this season (Week 3 at New England and Week 11 vs. Arizona) and is the only player in the NFL with two such games this season. Clowney is also tied for eighth in the NFL in defensive fumble recoveries with two and is third in the NFL in fumble return yards with 71 this season.
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Clowney is hopeful that his parallels with Hopkins continue this offseason when the Texans presumably sign the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft to a contract extension that could make him the highest paid defensive player in football, which would mark the second time in five off-seasons where the Texans made a defensive player the highest paid defender in football (J.J. Watt, 2014).
While Hopkins' and Clowney's achieving Pro Bowl status is a nice bright spot for Texan fans, a glance at what could have been is pretty sobering, considering J.J. Watt (four time Pro Bowler), Whitney Mercilus (on the cusp of Pro Bowl recognition), and Deshaun Watson (one of the five or six top MVP candidates when he got hurt) are all on injured reserve, and the team traded former Pro Bowler Duane Brown after Week 8. 2017 has been more cruel than kind to the Houston Texans.
Hopkins and Clowney become the eighth and ninth Houston Texans to make multiple Pro Bowls in a Texans uniform, joining seven-time Pro Bowler Andre Johnson, four-time Pro Bowlers Arian Foster and Watt, and two-time Pro Bowlers Johnathan Joseph, Chris Myers, DeMeco Ryans, and Mario Williams.
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