There's no question that Houston's all-time leading wide receiver Andre Johnson has talent, but he has eyes like a hawk, too.
The seven-time Pro Bowler analyzes what he sees and can accurately make adjustments. It's part of what ranks him among the top that head coach Bill O'Brien has seen in his coaching career.
"There are three receivers that I've been around—Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Andre Johnson—that are all hugely talented guys, but most importantly really bright guys," O'Brien said Friday. "Andre is such a special player. Not only because of his talent, but also because of his intelligence and his ability to go out on the practice field and refine his routes and work on his craft, and then go to the game and say, 'Hey, look, this is how they played me on that route. I think I can do this,' or, 'Hey, 10 years ago I did this against this corner. This might be something that would work against this guy.'"
As the longest-tenured player in franchise history, the 33-year-old Johnson has also seen a lot during his 155 games played as a Texan. His uncanny ability to discern plays as they happen and relay that information to the coaches on the sideline is invaluable.
"It's also the communication between not only coach-to-player but player-to-coach and player-to-player that makes Andre such a good player," quarterbacks coach George Godsey said Wednesday. "When he comes off the field, he tells you exactly what he saw, but it's exactly what's on the tape when you watch it the next day. You're able to make adjustments from a coaching standpoint. You're able to see the coverage when you were looking somewhere else and really take that for the next possession."
In-game adjustments are a point of emphasis for head coach Bill O'Brien who doesn't like to wait until halftime to implement changes. Johnson gives the coaches another set of eyes on the field, whether it's to confirm what they've seen or point out something they haven't or make suggestions .
Maybe that's also why it's no coincidence that Johnson has 20 games, the most in NFL history, with at least 10 receptions and 100 yards. Every week, he sets or eclipses a new record. Last week against Washington, he moved ahead of Art Monk to 16th place on the all-time receiving yards list with 12,754. He and Pro Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice are the only two players in NFL history to have 100 receptions and 1,500 yards receiving in their 10th season or later.
"These guys that are, in my opinion, the best in the best business and Andre Johnson is a fantastic player," O'Brien said. "I've said that over and over again. These guys are not just there because of their talent. They're there because of their ability to understand what they see and be able to attack it. He brings a lot to our football team."