A position-by-position look at the Texans' 2011 season
After helping produce a top-four offense from 2008-10 and powering the NFL's second-ranked running game in 2011, the Texans' underrated offensive line finally earned some recognition.
Center Chris Myers made the Pro Bowl as a first alternate, becoming the first Pro Bowl offensive linemen in team history. Left tackle Duane Brown was named a Pro Bowl alternate and second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. Eric Winston missed out on second-team All-Pro honors by one vote but received the most votes of any right tackle in the league.
As has been the case for the past several seasons, continuity was key to the line's success. All five starters started every game except for right guard Mike Brisiel, who missed the last three regular-season games with a fractured fibula. Antoine Caldwell, who started seven games in 2010, filled in until Brisiel returned for the playoffs.
Myers, Brown, Winston, Brisiel, Caldwell and left guard Wade Smith paved the way for a franchise-record 153.0 rushing yards per game. Running backs Arian Foster (1,224 yards) and Ben Tate (942) were the only teammates in the league with more than 800 yards apiece. The line also excelled in pass protection early in the season, allowing Matt Schaub to get sacked only 16 times in 10 games.
Offensive Line in Review
Starters: LT: Duane Brown (16 games 2 postseason), LG: Wade Smith (16 games 2 postseason), C: Chris Myers (16 games 2 postseason), RG: Mike Brisiel (13 games 2 postseason), Antoine Caldwell (3 games), RT: Eric Winston (16 games 2 postseason)
Newcomers: T Derek Newton (seventh-round draft pick), Barbieri?, Other backups…
Injuries: G Kasey Studdard (season-ending ankle, preseason), G Shelley Smith (season-ending ankle, preseason), T Rashad Butler (season-ending triceps, Week 3), Antoine Caldwell (high-ankle sprain, preseason), Brisiel (fibula, Weeks 13-16)
Notable number: 31 – Games, including playoffs, in which the Texans have had the same five starting offensive linemen (Brown, Smith, Myers, Brisiel, Winston) since 2010. All but one of the Texans' starters (Smith) has been a regular starter in Houston since 2008.
Season highlight: Week 9 vs. Cleveland – The Texans set a franchise record with 260 rushing yards in a dominant 30-12 victory. Foster and Tate both topped 100 rushing yards for the second time in three weeks. The Texans outgained the Browns 380-172 as they won the time of possession battle by more than 10 minutes. Schaub attempted only eight passes in the second half, handing off 25 times, and was not sacked in the game.
Quotable: "For a group like that to stick together for this many years, it helps me. It helps the running backs. They don't have to communicate as much as other offensive lines do. They just know, based on looks, who's helping and where their help is and everything like that." - Schaub on Sept. 15, four days after the Texans beat the Indianapolis Colts 34-7 in Week 1 at Reliant Stadium
"We're going to come out and dictate what we need to do to, whatever defense we play against. We feel like if we do what we're supposed to do, we can move the ball on anybody." - Wade Smith on Oct. 2, after the Texans ran for 180 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 17-10 victory at Reliant Stadium
"You can just see the unison on tape and how these guys have collectively bought into what they want to do. That's always a great attribute when you talk about coaching. But the players, they play with such a nasty demeanor that they got to be one of the top offensive lines we've played and possibly in the NFL" - Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris on Nov. 9, in advance of the Texans' Week 10 matchup at Tampa Bay
"We don't know when he did it. He was complaining at halftime. He did what we had to do to come back out and play. He's a tough guy. He always plays beat up." - Texans head coach Gary Kubiak on Dec. 12 on Brisiel, who played the second half of the Week 14 victory at Cincinnati with a fractured right fibula
"I've been giving credit to my offensive line since I stepped in this building in 2009 and they continue to dominate the line of scrimmage. Every time they dominate the line of scrimmage, we reap the benefits of that." - Foster on Jan. 7, after rushing for 153 yards and two touchdowns in the Texans' 31-10 Wild Card Playoff victory over the Bengals at Reliant Stadium
"Never did I in my wildest dreams ever think that I could ever reach there, let alone start in the league. It's very humbling, and I've been very blessed. I view it as a whole offensive line award." - Myers on Jan. 19, after being selected to the Pro Bowl as a first alternate
"I tell you what, he deserves it. We've got a few (linemen) that had great years. I thought Duane had a tremendous year. Our group as a group was excellent, but Chris, here's a guy who we got for a sixth-round draft choice, comes to our place, turns himself into a Pro Bowl football player. That's what the game's all about." - Kubiak on Myers on Jan. 29, after an AFC Pro Bowl practice in Hawaii