Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans' 2021 First Half Superlatives

Brandin Cooks has been really good for the Texans this season, but he doesn't have much company.
Brandin Cooks has been really good for the Texans this season, but he doesn't have much company. Photo by Jack Gorman
The Houston Texans did something this past weekend that we haven't been able to claim for over two months — they did NOT lose an NFL game. Granted, yes, the Texans were on a  bye this past weekend, but still — THEY DID NOT LOSE.

The bye week is often a chance to reflect on what's been good and what's been bad with your particular team. With the Texans, it's been way more bad than good, but there have been some noteworthy positive performances. Let's take a run through the first half of the season and hand out some hardware:

BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER: WR Brandin Cooks
When Bill O'Brien traded for Cooks in April of 2020, Cooks wasn't picked up to be the one shining beacon of hope on a horrible team. he was picked up to be a prime target for Deshaun Watson's next big push into the postseason. But here we are. Cooks is 4th in the league in catches, and 10th in the league in receiving yards, both somewhat miraculous until you consider that he is targeted about a third of the time by whichever QB is starting for the Texans.

WORST OFFENSIVE PLAYER: RB Phillip Lindsay
Honestly, you can give this one to any of the running backs still here — David Johnson, Rex Burkhead, or Lindsay. It's such an uninspiring group. However, we will give it to Lindsay, whose running style can best be described as a "blind man running into a wall at breakneck speed."  Lindsay is averaging 2.7 yards per carry, and has yet to break a tackle this season. He's played in all nine games.


BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: DE Jon Greenard
Greenard, the second year defensive end out of Florida, has been a revelation in his sophomore campaign. After missing the first two weeks with an ankle injury, Greenard has put up seven sacks in seven games, and has become a stout enough player on first and second down to where he is more than just a situational player.

WORST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: S Lonnie Johnson
You might look at his three interceptions and say "WHOA, SEAN ... how can a guy with three picks, which would match the Texans TEAM total for 2020, be their worst defensive player." Well, glad you asked! Because (a) all three picks were the result of overthrows right between the Johnson's numbers, and (b) for every pick, there are at least three plays where Lonnie Johnson allowed receivers to get behind him, which would seem impossible, given that he lines up about 40 yards off the ball. Johnson was recently benched for Eric Murray, which is probably all I really needed to say.

BEST ROOKIE: DT Roy Lopez
The lowest draft pick of the 2021 rookie class has been its most encouraging development. Lopez flashed early on in camp, and it's translated in season, as he has been a regular part of the defensive tackle rotation.

WORST ROOKIE: QB Davis Mills
It's probably a little unfair to put Mills in this category, seeing as he was being asked to start at quarterback about two months sooner than the Texans may have initially planned. Honestly, Garret Wallow (largely special teams player), and Brevin Jordan (just recently active on game day for the first time, in Week 8) may deserve mention here. However, it can't be ignored that, with Mills at quarterback, the Texans went three straight road games without a touchdown. (Of course, they didn't score a TD with Tyrod Taylor at QB last Sunday either in Miami, so maybe it's not all Mills' fault.)


BEST POSITION GROUP: Defensive line
This one isn't even really close. The signings (Maliek Collins, Jaleel Johnson), DeMarcus Walker) and draft decisions (Lopez) have supplemented some of the existing pieces and formed a line that's been serviceable. The defense is 31st in the league against the run, but a lot of that is because they've broken down in the second half of games after being on the field way too much. The Texans are in the middle of the pack in sacks.

WORST POSITION GROUP: Running backs
David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, Rex Burkhead. Not much more I need to say here.

BEST FREE AGENCY SIGNING: DT Maliek Collins
Of all the veterans brought in on one-year deals, Collins $5 million deal is looking like a very good purchase, and Collins is one of the few short timers I'd like to see brought back in 2022. He's done a decent job pressuring opposing passers (1.5 sacks, 3 QB hurries, 3 QB knockdowns), has an interception on a tipped ball, and has the lowest missed tackle percentage of his career (5.9 percent), by far.

WORST FREE AGENCY SIGNING: KR Andre Roberts
Roberts was signed to a two-year deal that guaranteed him $2.5 million. When Nick Caserio signed Roberts to this deal, he probably had visions of Roberts' Pro Bowl seasons in Buffalo dancing in his head. Instead, Roberts looked completely washed up, and his only noteworthy play was a fumbled punt that handed the Browns seven points in Week 2. He was cut six games into the season.

BEST DAVID CULLEY IN GAME STRATEGIC DECISION: Going for it on 4th and 3 at the Buffalo 6 yard line
David Culley has made a lot of strange decisions this year, and this one actually got some folks riled up, because in a scoreless game early, some thought Culley should kick a field goal and take a 3-0 lead. Instead, Culley tried to score a touchdown on fourth down, and explained (correctly) that the Texans needed touchdowns to win that day in Buffalo. They would end up not scoring any touchdowns, or field goals, in a 40-0 loss, but still, I loved this aggressiveness!

WORST DAVID CULLEY IN GAME STRATEGIC DECISION: My God, there are so many
In any game that's been close this season, there's probably been a Culley decision that's negatively affected the outcome. Of all the decisions that made no sense, and there have been many, the one that was the biggest head scratcher was in Week 2, where Culley declined a penalty that would have given the Texans a 3rd and 10 at around their own 40 yard line, so that the Texans would have 4th and 2 at around midfield. If Culley had chosen to go for the first down on the 4th and 2, it might have made sense. He chose to punt. Huh?!?

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast