Familiar faces mingle with new ones on Texans special teams | 2021 Yearbook

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New faces will mix with familiar ones on the special teams units this season.

Coordinator Frank Ross is a Texan after spending the last few seasons with the Colts.

Longtime long snapper Jon Weeks is set to begin season 12 as a Texan.

Punter Cameron Johnston comes to Houston from Australia, via three years with the Eagles, and four years before that at Ohio State.

Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn enters his fifth year with the squad.

Andre Roberts, meanwhile, is new in town, and looking for a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl nod as a return man.

Despite some of the changes, Ross was impressed with the cohesion he saw in the spring during Organized Team Activities (OTAs).

"Just overall, especially with a guy like Jon Weeks, overall having the ability to jell quickly in the spring here has been great," Ross said.

In addition to the Pro Bowler Weeks, who's played in a franchise-record 176 games, Ross is enthused about Fairbairn.

"I think Ka'imi's coming off of his finest year," Ross said. "Hopefully just continuing to elevate and raise his level of play. Has been very consistent and really happy with where he's at in the spring."

Fairbairn connected on 87.1 percent of his field goal attempts in 2020, was 4-for-6 beyond 50 yards or more, and made all 17 of his attempts from 39 yards or less. 61.2 percent of his kickoffs were touchbacks.

Johnston, meanwhile, was tied for fifth in the NFL with 26 punts downed inside the opponents' 20-yard line. He averaged 46.7 yards per punt.

"Man, what a tremendous talent," Ross said. What a special player. Powerful young man, powerful leg, both in the weight room and it translates to the field. His ability to use that in multiple ways is a tremendous asset to the punt unit."

As explosive as Johnston's leg is, the fireworks in the return game might crackle even more. Roberts has been a Pro Bowl selection in each of the last three years, and the 12-year veteran was good for 9.9 yards per punt return and an NFL-best 30 yards per kickoff return last season. He has five career return touchdowns, and is a threat for big yardage in the return game every time he takes off with the ball.

"You want to be able to attack aggressively," Ross said. "I think just watching the course of his career, especially in the kickoff and punt return game that he's had, even as a ball carrier on offense but especially in the return game, runs aggressively, attacks downhill, finishes runs as a returner. You just love to see that. Playing against him multiple times in our past, he's been a spot that, hey, this is an emphasis. We have to cover this guy."

Ross wants to see that aggressiveness in the return game also carry over to the coverage units on Texans' kickoffs and punts.

A successful season from the third portion of the team could go a long way toward pacing the Texans to improvement in 2021.

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