Rookies Making a Difference for Houston Texans

words // Brandon Richard

While the improbable run of Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos is currently stealing the headlines, the NFL’s ultimate underdog story this season may be that of the Houston Texans, who also advanced in the playoffs this weekend. Despite being hit hard by the injury bug last year, the Texans won their first ever AFC South title, which also resulted in their first ever playoff appearance. That appearance also resulted in the team’s first ever playoff win, as the Texans ran through the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 31-10 in front of their home fans at Reliant Stadium.

What makes the Texans’ run even more remarkable is the contributions they’re getting from rookie players. The fiber of any great NFL team is making sure that significant players are added through the draft, and it appears that they’ve picked a couple winners this season.

J.J. Watt wearing Nike Super Speed 3/4 vs. Cincinnati BengalsJ.J. Watt returns an interception for a touchdown in his playoff debut wearing the Nike Super Speed D 3/4.

First, there’s defensive end J.J. Watt, whom the Texans selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. The impressive pass rusher beat tackles with speed and guard with power throughout the season, racking up 56 tackles and 5.5 sacks in his first campaign. However, his biggest difference-making performance came in Saturday’s playoff win over the Bengals, where he registered a sack and an interception return for a touchdown on the day. With the game tied at 10 and less than a minute before halftime, Watt grabbed an Andy Dalton pass out of the air and ran it down the field for a 29-yard score. That key moment swung momentum in favor of the Texans and they never looked back.

T.J. Yates wearing Nike Vapor Talon Elite 3/4 vs. Cincinnati BengalsT.J. Yates tries to avoid a sack in the upcoming Alpha Vapor Talon Elite 3/4 Nike football cleats.

Also in his first season is quarterback T.J. Yates, who started the season third on the depth chart. After season-ending injuries to starter Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart, Yates stepped in to guide the Texans’ playoff run. His numbers on Saturday weren’t jaw-dropping, but he played mistake free football that kept Houston from playing on their heels. Yates threw no interceptions and never fumbled the ball, while the much more heralded Andy Dalton threw three picks. T.J. is now a winner in four of the six full games he has played.

What’s also fascinating about watching these young players succeed is flashing back to the 2011 NFL Combine, where Eastbay had the opportunity to speak to both Watt and Yates. Check out the following video clips to hear their preseason thoughts and reminisce about their earliest Eastbay shopping experiences!

photos via Yahoo