*Leading up to the regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 11, we'll profile each position group on the 2011 Texans. Each article will contain excerpts from the 2011 Houston Texans Yearbook, the team's official season preview magazine that is on sale now at the Go Texan Store at Reliant Stadium and online right here.
Lineup: Andre Johnson (starter), Kevin Walter (starter), Jacoby Jones, Bryant Johnson
New arrivals: Bryant Johnson (free agency)
Departures: David Anderson (released), Dorin Dickerson (released)
The Texans return their top three receivers from 2010, a group that includes the best in football in Andre Johnson.
Johnson was voted by his peers as the league's top wide receiver and seventh-best player overall in NFL Network's "Top 100 of 2011" list over the summer. It's easy to see why after he battled through an ankle injury to lead the league by a full three yards with 93.5 receiving yards per game last season.
A five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Johnson has averaged 79.7 yards per game in his career, the highest in NFL history among players with at least 100 games played. He led the league in receiving yards in 2008 and 2009.
"He's tremendous, but he's tremendous because he's a worker," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "It's not just some God-given ability that he doesn't have to do anything. He works hard at what he does."
Walter, the Texans' No. 2 receiver, has had at least 50 catches and 600 receiving yards in four consecutive seasons. Jones, a fifth-year pro who re-signed with the Texans this offseason, continues to progress into more than a special teams threat. In 2010, he set career-highs with 51 catches for 562 yards and caught three touchdowns.
The Texans signed Bryant Johnson on Aug. 30. Two days later, the ninth-year veteran impressed with three catches for 64 yards in the preseason finale at Minnesota. Johnson (6-3, 215) was a first-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2003 who has started 74 games in eight seasons. He had at least 35 catches and 415 yards in each of his first seven years in the league.
WRs coach Larry Kirksey on Andre Johnson: "Andre continues to be the dominant receiver that we thought he was going to be. Last year, even though he was injured most of the year, he went out and he still excelled in so many ways for us. His route-running improved, his body control, his playing strength, just attacking the ball and making things happen throughout the year. It's just amazing the things that he did last year and the year before and the year before that, that he continues to improve in his game. And I think that's a strong attribute that shows what type of player he aspires to be. Without a doubt, he's on line to be one of the all-time great receivers to play in this league, and he proves it year in and year out. His demeanor, his work ethic, his attention to detail and the way he goes about his craft, words can't explain it. He's a very impressive young man on and off the field, and I can't say enough good things about him."
Kirksey on Walter: "I think every team needs a Kevin Walter. Kevin's going to do the right thing. He's going to line up, he's going to do what he's assigned to do and he's going to do the little extra things. The thing about Kevin that you admire most is that he has tremendous hands. He attacks the football. Kevin may not be as flashy as some receivers in the league, but there's nobody that's going to compete as hard and do the things that he does every play that he's a part of. I really admire Kevin for his work ethic. He has great playing strength, and his attention to detail is unbelievable also. He knows what he's capable of doing, and he wants to excel and improve in every area of his game. He knows he may be lacking in some areas, but he makes up for it in other areas. That's why he's able to play at such a high level for us and continues to improve in his game."