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Top 10 Houston Texans in NFL History

Updated on February 14, 2015

They may be the league's newest franchise, but they've had some of the most skillful players in the NFL today. Today I rank the top 10 Houston Texans players of all time.

After the Oilers left Houston for Tennessee, the city was out of a football team for four seasons. Then Bob McNair won the NFL's bid for an expansion franchise and created the Houston Texans in 2002. While the team struggled in early seasons, luck started to change once Gary Kubiak was hired as head coach in 2006. Houston would finish above .500 for the first time in 2009. In 2011, the team made the playoffs for the first time winning the AFC South and won it first playoff game that same year.

For this list, I look at the talent of the individual, what they meant to the team, and status as a pro bowler.

10. Chester Pitts

This guy is the Kurt Warner of offensive lineman.

Pitts first played organized football as a walk-on at San Diego State at the urging of eventual Texans teammate Ephraim Salaam who found Pitts bagging groceries at a grocery store near their college campus. He went on to become one of the original Texans being drafted in the second round in 2002. Pitts started the first 114 games in team history from 2002 to 2009. He started his career playing left tackle as a rookie before becoming a fixture at left guard.

A knee injury ended his career in Houston and although he never was named All-Pro or a pro bowler, his impact on early Texans teams is felt by today's offensive line.

9. DeMeco Ryans

He was one of the first great defenders for Houston.

A second round pick in 2006, Ryan outplayed the teams first round pick Mario Williams in their rookie year. Ryans was named the leagues defensive rookie of the year after recording 156 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and an interception. He started to be an every down player in 2007 as the defense's signal caller. He went on two make two pro bowl appearances in his six seasons in Houston.

Ryan was traded to Philadelphia before the 2012 season. His impact on the defense was the precursor for what Wade Phillips wanted to establish.

8. Jonathan Joseph

This corner has made an impact since joining the team.

After spending five years in Cincinnati, Joseph signed with the Texans in 2011. He instantly became an important part of Houston’s pass defense that year with 4 interceptions and 15 passes defended. He registered 44 tackles, including 40 solo stops, and 1 forced fumble. In his three years with the team, Joseph has nine interceptions and has proven to be on of the leagues most consistent cornerbacks.

He has made two pro bowls since joining Houston and many teams try to avoid throwing to him due to his ability to play the ball in the air.

7. Duane Brown

He is one of the most underappreciated left tackles playing today.

Prior to 2008, the left tackle position was always a position of concern. Both David Carr and Matt Schaub were constantly being hit from the blindside which resulted in a lot of sacks and injuries between the two. Duane Brown was the eighth tackle selected in the first round of 2008, but he's arguably been the most consistent. In 2009, Brown protected the blind side of quarterback Matt Schaub who led the NFL with 4,770 passing yards and helped the offense set franchise records with 6,129 total yards and 388 points.

He has been named All-Pro twice and is a two time pro bowler. At the end of the 2012 season, Brown was voted the best left tackle in football.

6. Arian Foster

He quickly became the best running back in team history.

An undrafted free agent, Arian Foster signed with Houston's practice squad. In his second season, he beat out Steve Slaton for the starting job in the preseason. In his first start of 2010, Foster rushed for over 200 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over Indianapolis. He finished the year as the league's rushing leader with over 1,600 yards. Foster also broke the NFL record for most all purpose yards in a season by an undrafted player. Foster is known for his vision to find rushing lanes and his signature Namaste bow, which he frequently performs after scoring touchdowns.

He has since made three pro bowl appearances and has been named All-Pro three times. Foster is Houston's all time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns.

5. Mario Williams

It may not have been a fan favorite pick at the time, but Houston fans would be lucky to have him.

After an unspectacular rookie season, Mario Williams bounced back with a great sophomore effort recording 14 interceptions and accounted for almost half of the team's sacks. In 2007, Williams was named the NFL defensive end of the year. He is the team's all time leader in sacks with 53 and forced fumbles with 11. Williams left Houston for Buffalo which is the one factor that keeps him from being higher on this list.

Williams made two pro bowls during his six years with the team and he quickly silenced critics who said they should have drafted Vince Young or Reggie Bush.

4. Brian Cushing

He is a factor at both outside and inside linebacker.

A first round draft pick in 2009, Brian Cushing instantly made an impact on the defense. As a rookie he finished the year leading the AFC in tackles. He also added 4 sacks, 10 pass deflections, 4 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles that season as the NFL's defensive rookie of the year. When the team switched to a 3-4 defense, Cushing moved to the inside linebacker position and continued to achieve the same level of success. Injuries have derailed him the past two years, but his performance prior to that instills Houston's hope and him and they made him the highest paid inside linebacker in the league.

The versatile linebacker has been All-Pro twice and is versatile against the run and pass.

3. Matt Schaub

I know, Schaub is one of the most criticized quarterbacks playing today, but think about this.

Under David Carr in their first five seasons, the Texans were 24-56 with five losing seasons. In the seven seasons since Schaub arrived in 2007, the Texans are at an even .500 with two losing seasons and two AFC South titles. Schaub ranks seventh in NFL history in completion percentage which is higher than guys like Tom Brady and Joe Montana. He ranks 11th all time in passer rating and 12th in passing yards per attempt. Since 2007, he's ninth in the NFL in passer rating, ahead of Matt Ryan, Michael Vick, Eli Manning, and Joe Flacco. And Schaub's 261.4 passing yards per game since joining the Texans in 2007 would rank third in NFL history behind only Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.

Elite? Maybe not, but certainly better than he gets credit for.

2. J.J. Watt

Known as "J.J. Swat," he has become one of the most dominant 3-4 defensive lineman in the league.

A first round pick in 2011, Watt quickly proved to be a perfect fir for the defense. In the Texan's first ever playoff game against Cincinnati, Watt intercepted quarterback Andy Dalton and returned it for his first career NFL touchdown to give Houston a 17-10 lead at halftime. His sophomore season in the NFL turned out to be one of the greatest seasons by a defensive player in NFL history. Watt finished the regular season with 81 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 39 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and an incredible 16 passes defended.

He has been named All-Pro three times, been to two pro bowls, and won the NFL's defensive player of the year in 2012.

1. Andre Johnson

Was there really any question about who should be number one?

A first round pick in 2004, Andre Johnson has grown into one of the best wide receivers in the league. Johnson is second all-time in NFL history in receiving yards per game trailing only Calvin Johnson, and holds nearly every Texans receiving record. With over 900 career receptions, over 12,000 receiving yards, and 61 touchdowns, Johnson can easily be seen as the greatest Texan in the team's first decade of being in the league. He holds several NFL records for being the only receiver in history to have more than 60 catches in their first eight seasons. He also holds the league record for most seasons with 100 or more receptions in a season.

He's a seven time pro bowler, four time All-Pro, and two time league receiving leader. Johnson will likely be the first Houston Texan to be voted into the Hall of Fame once he retires.

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    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 3 years ago from Cape Cod

      Hi Ty. Thanks for a great hub. I am not a football fan, probably because where I live, I can almost throw a football into Foxboro Stadium where the New England Patriots play. I hate Bill Bellicose and his whole team!

      But, I liked your hub. I actually remember, not the Houston Texans, but the Dallas Texans of the old American Football league. We had a team in Boston then - the old Patriots. They did not have much skill but had Babe Parilli and Gino Capelletti who are AFL hall of famers.

      There was also an NFL team called the Dallas Texans back in the 1950s. The Texans were formed in Boston in the 1940s as the Boston Yanks. They moved to New York, then Dallas. I think they finally ended up as the KC Chiefs.

      The only thing I can readily remember about the Houston Oilers, was that they were coached by "Bum" Phillips; Wade's dad. He was known by the 35 gallon hat he wore on the sidelines......except when playing in the astrodome. He would not wear it then cause his Mom had taught him that it was not polite to wear a hat indoors.

      Nice job...keep writing.

    • Jackson Lewis profile image

      Jackson Lewis 3 years ago from New York

      Andre Johnson is also the only receiver besides Marvin Harrison to record back to back 1500 yard seasons