Johnson, Walter finish as a top tandem


Houston's tandem of Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter became the most dangerous receiving combo in the NFL.

They aren't the flashiest receivers in the NFL. They don't wear sunglasses during press conferences or change their names to match their numbers. Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter simply go about their business and get the job done on the field.

This season, the Texans' receiving tandem excelled at work and quietly became the most dangerous receiving combo in the NFL. They combined for 175 receptions for 2,474 yards, which was the most receiving yards in the league for wide receivers on the same team.

"It's great," Johnson said. "That's a great feeling. Like I've said before, everyone who plays football, all of us are competitors. You see other guys out there making plays and you always want to finish first."

The only duos coming close to them were: Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, who combined for 185 receptions and 2,469 receiving yards, and Carolina's Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad, who posted 143 receptions for 2,344 yards.

{QUOTE}Johnson, the third overall draft pick in 2003, has led the Texans in receptions for five seasons and despite being selected to three Pro Bowls, he has not generated the hype on par with elite receivers like Terrell Owens or Randy Moss. But this year, Johnson cemented his status as one of the best to play the game, topping the NFL in receptions (115) and receiving yards (1,575). He also averaged 13.7 yards a catch, scored eight touchdowns and became the first player in NFL history to have at least 10 catches in seven games in the same season.

What has made Johnson so special is his ability to line up at the 'X' or 'Z' position and produce a big play out of any route. His combination of speed and strength allowed him to get excellent separation and rack up yards after the catch.

Most teams were forced to double-cover Johnson, opening up opportunities for Walter. The sixth-year pro finished with 60 catches for 899 yards and eight touchdowns. His numbers were far better than Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson, who had 53 catches for 540 yards and four touchdowns, and just below Pro Bowlers like Owens, Moss and Hines Ward.

Walter, a former seventh-round pick who began his career as a special teams player, became perhaps the team's most consistent player on offense.

"He's a special player," coach Gary Kubiak said of Walter. "He plays hard in the running game. He seems to make big plays for our team all the time, very unselfish player. For us to get him for a seventh-round draft choice a couple of years ago has been just a tremendous steal. I'm really looking forward to his future. I don't think he's scratched the surface. I think he's going to be a fine, fine player for a long time. He takes care of himself. The game is very important to him. People can count on him."

With Walter and Johnson returning to a loaded Houston offense, which finished fourth in the league in passing (266.7 ypg), the team should have one of the premier air attacks going next season.

"We have a lot of the pieces," Johnson said. "I think we have a lot of weapons. You can always add things and make your team better, but we're just going to keep working and hopefully it will work out for us."

Johnson and Walter will continue working during the offseason to make sure they are in the best shape possible for next year. They expect the team to be even better in 2009.

"We have set the bar high," Walter said. "We have high standards for ourselves. Being 8-8 this year compared to last year is night-and-day difference. Same record, but I think our team is a heck of a lot better than it was last year at this time. We're a few plays here and there from getting where we want to be, and that's in the playoffs."

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