And a rookie shall lead them for MVP
Selecting a midseason MVP for the Texans is an easy assignment. It has to be rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, right? Even though the Texans were 3-3 in Watson’s starts, his accomplishments were extraordinary, starting with his 19 touchdown passes being the most in NFL history for a quarterback in his first seven games.
In nearly every survey of NFL midseason awards by the media, Watson is getting recognition as Offensive Rookie of the Year. That’s league, not team.
Team-wise, Watson is the Texans’ midseason MVP.
Now the Texans are finding out what life is like without their MVP, gone because of seasonending knee surgery.
As the Texans approach Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams and the possibility of being 3-6 for the first time under Bill O’Brien, let’s look back at the first half of the season and our midseason award winners.
To keep in line with the Associated Press’ official All-Pro team voted on after the season, we’ll keep the same awards.
The Offensive Player of the Year is receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who’s on a pace for 16 touchdown receptions that would shatter his team record of 11 set in 2015.
After missing most of preseason and a lot of training camp with a broken thumb, Hopkins has been exceptional with 51 catches for 692 yards (13.6 average) and eight touchdowns.
And don’t forget how many plays Hopkins draws double coverage.
Our Defensive Player of the Year is Jadeveon Clowney, who moves effortlessly between end and outside linebacker. He leads the team with five sacks, seven quarterback hits and nine tackles for loss.
No matter where he lines up or how much attention he gets from blockers, Clowney has been disruptive against the run and pass.
We’ve chosen Watson for our rookie award. That one was easy. Truthfully, the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award wasn’t too difficult, either.
Top rookie on defense
Inside linebacker Zach Cunningham, the second-round pick from Vanderbilt, has filled in admirably for Brian Cushing, who was suspended and won’t return until the last five games.
Cunningham wins this award over Dylan Cole, an undrafted free agent who was a huge surprise before suffering a hamstring injury that has cost him the last two games and might keep him out for two more.
When asked about Cunningham, O’Brien always praises him for his play against the run and in pass coverage. He’s tied for fourth on the team with 34 tackles.
Our Comeback Player of the Year is center Nick Martin. After spending his rookie year on injured reserve, Martin has become an anchor in the middle of the offensive line and has everything it takes to improve and become one of the best in the league at his position.
Now, we’re going to add a category: Special Teams Player of the Year.
There’s only one answer, punter Shane Lechler.
Lechler, 41 and playing in his 18th season, has a gross average of 50.2 yards, including a net of 42.6. He has put 18 inside the 20 and has only one touchback.
At his current pace, Lechler will finish with his best gross average since 2011 and his best net since 2009. He’s also on pace to set a career high with 36 inside the 20 and a career low with two touchbacks.
The Texans have to play the second half of their season without Watson, defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, among others who are injured.
O’Brien seeks consistency
They are 12-point underdogs against the surprising Rams, who are 6-2 under first-year coach Sean McVay.
“I love these guys,” O’Brien said last week. “I support these guys. We’ve got great veteran leadership.
“We’ve been dealt some blows, and our guys play hard. They show up every day and practice hard. They do everything we ask. We can’t ask any more of our players other than let’s get a little more consistent execution and the coaches — everybody — working together to coach better and play better.”
With so many significant players missing, that might be easier said than done, especially against a white-hot team like the Rams.
OFFENSIVE MVP WR DeAndre Hopkins
DEFENSIVE MVP LB Jadeveon Clowney
MIDSEASON MVP QB Deshaun Watson