AFC South: Houston Texans

Ryan Fitzpatrick's old demons return

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
6:59
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- He made the declaration surely and steadily, though it was one with which his head coach and several teammates disagreed. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick took the blame for the Houston Texans' first loss of the season.

"We're not going to win any games when I play like that," Fitzpatrick said after his worst game as a Houston Texan.

[+] EnlargeRyan Fitzpatrick
AP Photo/Kathy WillensRyan Fitzpatrick endured interceptions and sacks for the first time this season, leading to the Texans' first defeat of 2014.
The Texans lost 30-17 despite being outgained by only eight yards, having a better average gain per offensive play than their opponent and a better average gain per pass play.

What once went the Texans' way went in the opposite direction Sunday. Turnovers turned their backs on Houston as the Texans looked to their passing game more with starting running back Arian Foster out with a hamstring injury. They shifted away from their ground game, and when they did, Fitzpatrick's old demons returned to haunt him.

"Some interceptions happen, but that was just poor play by me," Fitzpatrick said. "You saw the first two games, the formula of not turning the ball over and forcing turnovers on defense and what that led to, which was two wins. Today, with three turnovers -- as a quarterback you really just hate losing, but you especially hate losing when it's kind of on you."

Through two games this season, Fitzpatrick was one of just two quarterbacks to have avoided both interceptions and sacks. Both of those streaks ended for Fitzpatrick, whose offensive line gave up two sacks against the Giants.

Fitzpatrick threw 34 passes and completed 20 of them for 289 yards. He threw one touchdown pass but three interceptions that resulted in a 59.6 passer rating. All three picks were on passes that traveled at least 15 yards through the air. His interception total could have been higher than that, were it not for fortunate bounces. One tipped pass hit Giants corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Another pass floated in the air, precariously around various Giants, as Fitzpatrick tried to get rid of it and salvage yardage.

This is not a new problem for Fitzpatrick, and it's something the Texans sought to curb during the offseason. Since he was drafted, Fitzpatrick ranks fifth among active starting quarterbacks for most interceptions per game with 1.07. He has thrown 93 in his career. The team's coaching staff has focused on helping him make smart decisions, and until now Fitzpatrick had.

On Sunday, Fitzpatrick's 34 passes were almost double what he'd thrown in the previous week's win over the Oakland Raiders. Part of that was due to missing Foster, who was sidelined again with a hamstring injury. Foster's absence likely contributed to the high number of long third-down situations in which the Texans found themselves. Foster averages 6.5 yards per rush on first downs.

"It's not just him, it's everybody," receiver Andre Johnson said. "I always tell people, my thing about football, you can't have one guy hit three home runs or have one guy go out and score 80 points. All 11 guys have to be on the same page. When we're all not on the same page, we don't go out and play the way we want to play."

Those long third downs required passing plays and twice ended in interceptions. Once, on a third-and-19 in the second quarter, Fitzpatrick tried to make something happen and instead threw his second interception.

"There's plenty of shorter options there where I could just get us out of Dodge, check it down, not trying to be a hero at the end of the half," Fitzpatrick said. "That one really hurt because I know I'm a better and smarter player than that."

He showed as much in the Texans' first two games. Sunday's just proved too much.
Observed and heard in the locker room after the Houston Texans' 30-17 loss to the New York Giants.
  • Cushing
    Coming back to MetLife Stadium was a bit eerie for inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who tore his ACL because of an illegal peel-back block on this field two years ago. He thought about it during the week of practice, during warm-ups and heading into the visiting locker room. Cushing cleared a nice mental hurdle by playing Sunday's game healthy and leaving healthy.
  • Although Cushing was pleased with that, he was frustrated by the Texans' defensive performance against the Giants. New York running back Rashad Jennings gained 176 yards rushing. "First half seemed to be inside handoffs," Cushing said.

    "Second half kind of seemed like he was running inside bouncing outside. Felt like nothing was working. Honestly just felt like nothing was working. We weren’t doing our jobs."
  • Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick began his news conference with a heartfelt note about his former teammate Rob Bironas, who died in a single-car crash Saturday night.


    "We woke up this morning to the tragic news that Rob Bironas passed away," Fitzpatrick said. "He was a teammate and friend of mine. I just want to express my sorrow and condolences to the Bironas family and his wife, Rachel, on their loss. Hopefully they can get through this. ... Great guy, everybody in the locker room loved him. It was obviously shocking news for everybody this morning. When things like that happen, it really puts into perspective the game of football and how there are things that are a lot more important than that."
  • Receiver DeAndre Hopkins made a spectacular catch in the second quarter that was called back because of an illegal formation penalty.


    "I kind of jumped early," Hopkins said. "It was my fault. Bad timing on the ball. I really couldn’t time it right like I wanted to. I just put my hand up. Luckily my 3X hands came down with the ball." Hopkins said he hasn't made a catch that nice since a catch he made in a seven-on-seven drill in high school that is apparently on YouTube.

Rapid Reaction: Houston Texans

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
3:57
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video
A few thoughts on the Houston Texans' 30-17 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

What it means: The Texans' drop to 2-1 after the Giants exposed a lot of flaws. They were playing without starting running back Arian Foster and threw the ball more than they did last week, when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw only 19 passes. The Giants' pass-rush was fierce starting early in the game, with Jason Pierre-Paul's mere presence creating problems for Fitzpatrick. The quarterback threw three interceptions after having none in the Texans' first two games.

Stock watch: Stock in the Texans' defense went down Sunday. It got gashed on the ground, giving up more than 170 yards rushing to Giants running back Rashad Jennings. Jennings' previous best game, by the way, was also against the Texans. Last year he eclipsed 150 yards against Houston while playing for the Raiders. Granted, this unit was put into some bad positions by the offense's turnovers, but there were times when the team needed stops and didn't get them.

Gambling O'Brien: Texans coach Bill O'Brien took a few gambles. Early on one succeeded, and one failed late. In the first quarter he called a fake punt in which Shane Lechler threw a first-down pass to running back Alfred Blue. Lechler, by the way, has thrown five career passes with three completions. In the third quarter, O'Brien went for a fourth-and-1 on the Texans' 46-yard line, but they couldn't convert it. Both times the results of the plays seemed to align with the direction of the game's momentum.

Game ball: Second-year receiver DeAndre Hopkins made one of the most incredible catches we'll probably see all year late in the second quarter. Between two defenders, Hopkins reached up to grab Fitzpatrick's deep pass with his left hand. He came down with the ball safely in his arms, but the play was called back due to an illegal formation called on Tyson Clabo, who had checked in as an eligible receiver. Hopkins was excellent all day despite his offense's problems.

What’s next: Houston returns home to face the Buffalo Bills.

Arian Foster questionable for Texans

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
4:30
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HOUSTON -- After he was limited all week in practice, the Houston Texans have declared running back Arian Foster questionable for Sunday's game against the New York Giants.

Foster has rushed for 241 yards in the first two games of the season on 55 carries. Texans coach Bill O'Brien talked earlier in the week about limiting Foster's practice reps during the week to keep him as healthy as possible for games. If a player is listed as questionable, that is supposed to mean there is a 50 percent chance that player won't play.

The Texans also listed safety D.J. Swearinger and guard Ben Jones as questionable for Sunday's game. Jones missed Friday's practice, but was having extra treatment. I'm expecting Jones to play.

The good news for the Texans is that tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is listed as probable.

Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and safety Shiloh Keo are out for Sunday's game.

The Giants declared linebacker Jon Beason, receiver Odell Beckham and linebacker Devon Kennard out against the Texans. Tackles James Brewer and Charles Brown and punter Steve Weatherford are questionable.
HOUSTON -- Don't get too carried away with the Houston Texans' impressive statistics on third downs.

Texans coach Bill O'Brien isn't.

"I think it’s important to note that it’s only two games into the season and we need to keep that going, keep that trend going," O'Brien said.

Indeed, it's been a good trend for Houston so far. In their first two games, they've converted 55.2 percent of their third downs offensively, fourth-best in the league. Their opponents, meanwhile, have only converted 23.8 percent of their third downs, the second-lowest percentage in the league behind only the Philadelphia Eagles.

How a team plays on third down has a lot to do with whether or not they win games. It's no coincidence that this week the Texans are facing an 0-2 team whose defense struggles to get off the field on third downs, allowing conversions 53.6 percent of the time.

"It makes the drives longer; it wears the defense down over time," Texans receiver Andre Johnson said. "Hopefully we can keep that going. ... Probably later on during the game you can see it. You know, when you have those long drives, defenses are trying to get off the field, they always preach that. We just try to convert.”

Joseph, Fiedorowicz practice fully

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
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HOUSTON -- Two Houston Texans moved from the limited participation list to the Texans' lengthy full participation list on today's injury report -- cornerback Johnathan Joseph (foot) and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (foot).

Fiedorowicz missed last week's game in Oakland. Earlier this week, Texans coach Bill O'Brien said it looked like Fiedorowicz would probably be ok to play, but they haven't made any final determinations yet.

Running back Arian Foster (hamstring), guard Ben Jones (ankle/knee) and safety D.J. Swearinger (elbow) were limited today, as they were yesterday.

Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (knee), receiver DeAndre Hopkins (illness) and safety Shiloh Keo (calf) did not practice. Clowney actually made a brief appearance in the locker room during the open period today. He had a sleeve on his surgically repaired knee, but no brace, and didn't appear to have a limp. Clowney had arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago. Hopkins caught a bug, but is expected to play Sunday.

For the New York Giants, punter Steve Weatherford, who didn't practice yesterday, returned to practice on a limited basis. Linebacker Jon Beason (foot/ankle), receiver Odell Beckham (hamstring) and linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) did not practice. In addition to Weatherford, offensive tackles James Brewer (back) and Charles Brown (shoulder) were limited.

Texans' secondary doesn't give up

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
4:00
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HOUSTON -- Something struck me in listening to J.J. Watt talk about the Texans' secondary's superlative performances lately.

What they've been doing sounded a lot like what has made Watt who he is.

"A couple of the turnovers were just pure effort plays, which is awesome to see," Watt said. "Two of them especially, down the field, after a big play, and our guys just hustling to get the ball out and create something that’s a big deal. I think Romeo [Crennel]’s defense has done some different things for our team, but I think on a couple of occasions it’s personal individual effort by some of our guys, which is outstanding."

The Texans' secondary is playing like it never feels truly beat. That's one of Watt's hallmarks. His mind is always working to figure out what else he can do. His batted balls often happen when he has been blocked but then figures out how to impact the play anyway.

Swearinger
That's exactly what happened when Kendrick Lewis and Johnathan Joseph stripped Oakland receiver James Jones, Lewis first, then Joseph, for two fumbles on the same play. That's also what happened when D.J. Swearinger stripped Washington tight end Niles Paul in Week 1. Swearinger noted Paul wasn't supposed to make that catch, acknowledging he got beat, but the end result worked just fine for the Texans.

Swearinger's growth has been evident this season. Some of his teammates predicted it based on what they saw in training camp.

"He’s always been confident in his skills and what he can do as a player," Watt said. "One of the biggest things for him is knowing when to take his shots and knowing when to play within the defense. He’s continued to grow as a player, he’ll continue to grow as a player. It’s good to see."

Knowing when to play within the defense and when to freelance is something Watt does very well. So far this season, Swearinger has made important plays by taking the right chances. He garnered his sack that way in Week 1, striking at quarterback Robert Griffin III rather than dropping back as the play called him to do.

Texans could spread out RB carries

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:27
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HOUSTON -- Texans running back Arian Foster has 55 carries already this season -- the highest total any running back has had since 2006.

Foster
Foster
Texans coach Bill O'Brien steadfastly maintains the team will give Foster as many carries as is necessary for the team to win, whether that's 10 carries a game or 35. On Monday he admitted the Texans will probably spread out carries among the rest of the Texans' running backs later in the season.

"Certainly when you look at one player getting a ton of carries, that’s something that you have to pay attention to as a staff," O'Brien said. "We do that. But also we do what’s necessary to win a game."

If you go back to 2001, LaDainian Tomlinson is the player with the most carries in the first two games with 63. In the past 10 years, running backs have had 50 or more carries in the first two games of the season 21 times. Three of those occurrences were by Foster. In 2010, Foster's first full year as the Texans' featured back, Foster had 52 carries in his first two games. He had 54 in 2012.

In his career, Foster has more than 1,200 carries. He's eclipsed 300 carries (including the playoffs) in three different seasons and had more than 400 carries in 2012.

That's a running back with a lot of mileage.

There's no doubting Foster's talent, which is a big part of why his coaches have used him so much. His patience behind an offensive line, that joined him in getting game balls from O'Brien today, has meant great things for the Texans' offense.

Spreading around the carries, when possible, would likely extend his time during which he'll be able to help the Texans.

The Film Don't Lie: Texans

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:00
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A weekly look at what the Houston Texans must fix.

The Texans will face the New York Giants in Week 3 after convincing wins against Washington and Oakland. Their plus-five turnover margin is tied with the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals for second in the NFL. Those forced turnovers have helped the Texans win despite being outgained in both games.

On the way to a 30-14 win in Oakland, Houston allowed Raiders receiver James Jones 112 receiving yards -- 77 in the first half as the Texans built a 17-0 lead. He averaged 12.4 yards per catch and averaged 15.4 yards per catch in the first half.

To declare anything a "must fix" after that game seems nitpicky. The Texans had a 27-0 lead and gave up the second touchdown in garbage time as the Raiders ran a two-minute drill to get their rookie quarterback that experience. But the Texans are in the bottom 10 in the NFL in passing yards allowed, giving up 252 per game, and that could bite them against teams with better ball security.

Turnovers going Texans' way again

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
10:00
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- No moments were more indicative of the renewed attitude of the Houston Texans' defense than what followed a deep pass from Oakland quarterback Derek Carr to receiver James Jones.

Jones initially picked up 26 yards with the catch, then safety Kendrick Lewis knocked the ball from his hands. Jones picked the ball back up off the ground and kept running, this time meeting cornerback Johnathan Joseph near the end zone. The ball was knocked out of Jones' grasp again. D.J. Swearinger picked it up that time and the Texans had the ball back at their own 3-yard line.

Swearinger
Joseph was initially defending Jones then got back up and chased him down to the goal line. Swearinger was ready to pounce on the opportunity.

"Everyone’s excited to play," inside linebacker Brian Cushing said. "Not giving up on plays. Even when they get a big play, we’re chasing after balls, getting it out."

Shortly after halftime, Swearinger returned the favor for Joseph, knocking the ball from tight end Mychal Rivera for Joseph to recover. Joseph returned that recovery 49 yards, hoping to get a score there, too.

Already this season, the Texans have forced six turnovers, more than half of what they had in all of the 2013 season. They notched two interceptions (by Kareem Jackson and Brooks Reed) and two forced fumbles to add to Week 1's two forced fumbles.

"Games in the NFL, they come down to third-down conversions, they come down to red-area percentage and then obviously, probably most importantly, they come down to turnovers," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "So if you're the team that doesn't turn it over and the other team does turn it over, then you've got a heck of a shot to win and our team is doing a pretty good job of that right now."

It's a dramatic difference from last season when turnovers were a massive issue for the Texans on both sides of the ball. Houston's minus-20 turnover margin in 2013 was the worst in the NFL. Their offensive struggles there were well documented, and happened in part due to the quarterback who was shipped to Oakland after the season. Their defensive turnover struggles meant only 11 forced turnovers in 16 games.

Their goal on Sunday against the Raiders was to give up no more than seven points. Swearinger lamented that they didn't, but the Raiders' extra touchdown was a meaningless garbage-time touchdown.

They met one goal, though, one that mattered even more.

"We can’t be the defense we want to be if we don’t force turnovers," Swearinger said. "So we have to."

Texans vs. Raiders preview

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
8:00
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The loser of this Week 2 matchup will face some tough early-season consequences.

If the Oakland Raiders lose their home opener, they'll fall to 0-2, which will be difficult for their fan base to accept. The Raiders made a lot of changes this offseason. If Oakland drops another game, it will be difficult for a franchise that hasn’t had a winning record since 2002 to get to 9-7 or better this year.

If the Houston Texans lose to the Raiders and rookie quarterback Derek Carr, the Texans will have to deal with the reality that they passed on Carr in the second round before the Raiders took him at No. 36. Derek Carr is the younger brother of David Carr, the No. 1 overall pick by Houston in 2002. Derek Carr and his family moved to Houston to be with David, who flamed out with the Texans. Perhaps the Texans were afraid to sell the choice of another Carr to their fan base. If they lose this game, though, the Texans might face more questions.

Texans reporter Tania Ganguli and Raiders reporter Bill Williamson discuss the matchup:

Williamson: Tania, will the Texans regret not taking Carr?

Ganguli: They did a lot of work on Carr in the pre-draft process and liked him. Coach Bill O’Brien spoke very highly of Carr this week, too, saying he will be a good pro and the Raiders did a good job drafting him. He was then quick to say he also thinks Tom Savage, who the Texans drafted in the fourth round, was a good pick there. This is something I’ll definitely watch as the season goes on. The Raiders took Carr, who is obviously now their starting quarterback, three picks after the Texans selected guard Xavier Su'a-Filo with the first pick of the second round. The players are in different situations, so it’s not fair to directly compare them. Carr was there for the whole offseason, in a place where the starter was struggling tremendously. Su'a-Filo's arrival was delayed by the quarter-system rule; the NFL prohibits players from working out with their new teams until the player's academic calendar is complete. In the meantime, Ben Jones won the left guard job. Bill, why aren’t the Texans facing their former quarterback, Matt Schaub, who is now the Raiders' backup? How did he handle the Raiders' decision to start Carr?

Williamson: The Raiders figured Schaub would be a short-term answer, but he didn’t necessarily have what it takes to be a difference-maker who could win games. So Oakland decided to serve youth now with Carr. As far as how Schaub handled losing the starting job, he was terrific. This guy is a pro. Schaub admitted he wasn’t pleased with the move, but he handled it well. Carr has praised Schaub for offering to help in any way possible. Schaub’s actions have made the transition easier for everyone. Tania, Texans punter Shane Lechler, who was Oakland's punter for many years, is a Black Hole favorite. Is this a big game for him?

Ganguli: The Raiders' organization means a lot to Lechler. He appreciates Al Davis spending a fifth-round pick on him in 2000. He loved his 13 seasons there -- especially the Super Bowl season. But, like many players in this situation, he doesn’t want to draw too much attention to that. It helps that he faced the Raiders last season. It also helps that he barely knows anyone on the team anymore. Lechler said this week that he hopes to punt for the Texans as long as he punted for the Raiders. That would be quite a feat. Bill, speaking of favorites, DE Antonio Smith was a favorite in Houston. What has his role been Oakland?

Williamson: Smith is one of the many veterans the Raiders paid for this offseason. He is a starter and one of the leaders of Oakland’s defense. Week 1 wasn’t great for Smith and his defensive teammates, but the Raiders think he can help this season. Smith is a big fan of former teammate J.J. Watt. Who isn’t, right?

Ganguli: Watt’s play in the Texans' season opener was truly spectacular. He had a fumble recovery, a batted pass, a blocked extra-point attempt, two tackles for loss and a sack. Watt will be a problem for Oakland, no matter how they try to combat him. And what was really helpful for the Texans in their season opener was that Watt had help. That will be the challenge for Oakland. The Raiders can double Watt, as most teams do, but that creates opportunities for a guy like Brooks Reed, who had another outstanding game. Finally, Bill, how good is the Raiders’ run defense?

Williamson: The Raiders think they are going to have a stout run defense this season. They are big and strong up front. That didn’t help against the Jets, who had 212 yards rushing and averaged 6.2 yards per run. The difference in the game was a 71-yard touchdown run by New York’s Chris Ivory in the fourth quarter. The weather was warm and the defense was on the field a lot for Oakland. And they did wear down. That is an area this team must improve quickly.
HOUSTON -- Houston Texans tight end Garrett Graham was very cautious on Thursday when asked if he'd travel to Oakland. He said to ask his coach.

So we did.

Graham
Head coach Bill O'Brien said Thursday that Graham, the Texans' starting tight end, will play Sunday in Oakland. That's good news for the Texans.

He also talked some about Ryan Griffin, the Texans' third-string tight end.

"I’ve put Griff in that category of an improving player, a player that since we arrived here has improved in all areas," O'Brien said. "He’s improved his blocking. He’s improved his route-running, his catching ability, his knowledge of our offense. He just needs to keep getting better. He’s a young player, just being a rookie last year. He played a little bit at the end of last year. He’s still a young player and he works hard."

The rest of the Texans' injury report went as follows: Jadeveon Clowney (knee), safety Shiloh Keo (calf), tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (foot) and defensive end J.J. Watt (ankle/illness) did not practice. Watt practiced fully with the ankle issue Wednesday. He is expected to be fine for Sunday's game. Graham (back), Andre Johnson (ankle) and Johnathan Joseph (foot) were all limited in practice. Then, of course, there were 12 players listed on the injury report who were listed to have practiced fully.

Raiders cornerback Taiwan Jones (foot), running back Maurice Jones-Drew (hand) and offensive tackle Matt McCants did not practice. McCants is new to that list. Linebacker Kaluka Maiava, who did not practice Wednesday, and linebacker Nick Roach, who was limited Wednesday, were both limited in practice. Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, who was limited Wednesday, practiced fully.

Arian Foster by the numbers

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
4:45
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HOUSTON -- We've heard this before, that Arian Foster is the type of running back who gets better the more carries he receives, and the more he's able to develop a rhythm.

Foster repeated that theory today.

"I’ve always been that kind of runner, in my opinion, where I get stronger as the game goes," Foster said. "Coming off an injury where I missed like seven games, you know, I felt a little rust. I didn’t get a lot of contact in training camp, so it felt good to get to get those hits. It didn’t feel good on Monday and Tuesday. It’s just getting back acclimated to that part of football."

His coach, Bill O'Brien, said that is something elite running backs tend to have in common.

"Most top-flight backs are like that," O'Brien said. "You have to get them into the rhythm of the game. In the national football league it’s very hard to run the ball. It’s just a very difficult league to run the ball. I think that really applies, especially early in the game."

I did a little research on Foster's history to see if there was indeed such a pattern. While I did find a pattern, it wasn't exactly that. I looked at numbers starting in 2010, when Foster became the Texans' featured back. Foster's best quarter is the second quarter of games, a quarter in which he was significantly more productive last weekend against Washington.

Yards per carry is a more appropriate statistic to determine a running back's productivity than rushing yards, which are often dependent on the number of carries a player gets.

As for his carries, O'Brien said the Texans will do whatever they need to do when it comes to that. If they need him to get 10 carries and catch the ball more, he will. If they need him to have 35 carries (which he has never done) he will.

"We have to change up how we’re using him every week," O'Brien said. "He’s got a new game plan every week. He’s a guy who has to touch the ball for us. Andre Johnson's a guy like that. Deandre Hopkins is definitely a guy like that."

.

Derek Carr's unusual Houston childhood

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
12:27
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What Derek Carr remembers is Toro, the Texans' mascot, charging at him through the A-gap.

It was at halftime of a Texans football game in which Derek's older brother, David, was playing. Derek, then 12 years old, took the field for a game against the mascots. He pointed out the linebackers and everything, as if playing a real game.

"I’ll never forget that," Derek Carr said. "I remember he hit me, and he started laughing. We used to hang out and play catch at practice all the time, obviously when he wasn’t in costume. It was funny because he hit me, and he let me know he was there."

Derek Carr
Houston TexansIn 2004, Derek Carr took the field at halftime of a Houston Texans game.
It was a surreal childhood for Carr, growing up in Houston where his big brother was the franchise's first No. 1 overall pick. Playing catch with mascots, with future hall of famers and with radio personalities. This week he'll face the team he grew up around, only this time he'll be the opposing starting quarterback.

He was a confident kid -- even a little bit cocky. Every time Andre Johnson walked out of the postgame locker room, Derek would be sitting there with a couple friends. He'd tell Johnson that one day he was going to go to Miami and be the quarterback at The U.

Johnson always figured the kid would follow in his brother's footsteps and go to Fresno State instead. Carr quipped Miami didn't want him.

"He did that, had a great career [at Fresno State]," Johnson said. "The one thing that stood out about him is he had a lot of confidence."

As the second first pick in franchise history, Johnson developed a bond with the whole Carr family. He went golfing with the patriarch and with David. He attended a few of Derek's middle school football games, too, able to blend in despite being Andre Johnson.

"I don't think too many people knew me then," Johnson said with a laugh.

It meant a lot to Derek.

"He was just always so nice to me," Derek said. "I was always bugging him, telling him I was going to go to Miami, all of these things. ... I remember him always taking the time to see how my season was going or like I said, he went to some of games, which is pretty cool. Not a lot of kids have a Hall of Fame receiver come to their football games."

The David Carr era in Houston ended in 2006. Johnson lost touch with the family after that. In the meantime, Derek did follow in his brother's footsteps at Fresno State. He became one of the country's top college quarterbacks, got married young and became a father, and then muddled through pre-draft critiques -- a little too heavily based on his brother -- to get to a place where he earned a starting job. (Read this excellent story from ESPN's Seth Wickersham on the two brothers.)

Johnson can't wait to catch up with Derek on Sunday in Oakland.

"Just ask him about the experience," Johnson said. "How was it? Stuff like that. Just ask him about the family. Used to go out and play golf with his dad and stuff like that. Me, him and David. They’re a really cool family and good people to be around."

How Johnson helps offensive chemistry

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
9:47
AM ET
HOUSTON -- When Texans' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick called receiver Andre Johnson a "quarterback-friendly" receiver, it meant more than just the fact that Johnson is an elite talent.

Johnson
It's the little things Johnson does that really help his connection with Fitzpatrick. The body language through which he can communicate with his quarterback, his precision on routes so Fitzpatrick always knows where he's going to be and his intelligence in the offense.

"Andre is an easy receiver to throw to, to get on the same page with just because he’s played so much football," Fitzpatrick said. "I think there is not a whole lot that surprises him in terms of coverages and things that he’s gone against."

Johnson had six receptions on Sunday, all of them for first downs.

"It’s also the communication between not only coach-to-player but player-to-coach and player-to-player that makes Andre such a good player because when he comes off the field, he tells you exactly what he saw," quarterbacks coach George Godsey said. "It’s exactly what’s on the tape when you watch it the next day. You’re able to make adjustments from a coaching standpoint. You’re able to see the coverage when you were looking somewhere else and really take that for the next possession."

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