Be Afraid: Andre Johnson Expected to Be Better in '09
On May 27, Texans offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan spoke as part of a coaching clinic held at the All-Access event the team holds for its fans. Shanahan spoke on a number of topics, including his belief that receiver Andre Johnson has room to improve his game over the next year. Given that Johnson led the league in receptions and yards, and was second in yards per game, that can't be good news to the rest of the league.
Shanahan said that Johnson is arguably the best wide receiver on the planet, but he believes that Johnson has a couple more levels he can get to in his development as a wide receiver. He compares Johnson to Michael Jordan -- another physically gifted athlete who continued through his career to work on his skills, even though he could have just coasted on his athleticism. He says Johnson is that sort of hard worker that, combined with his freaky athletic skills, could become one of the all-time greats at his position.
Shanahan, as a former college receiver and receivers coach for the Texans, is particularly focused on technique. In a talk I've heard him give before, he says that he had to rely on technique to even be on a college team, because so many players were better athletes than he was. He thinks Johnson's focus on technique work will allow him to continue to play at a top level after his physical gifts begin to fade.
Playing in a pass-friendly offensive system can help too. Johnson is such a good receiver that he made the Pro Bowl with a conservative offense and David Carr throwing to him. Under Gary Kubiak's system, and with quarterback Matt Schaub getting one more year of comfort in it, it isn't completely crazy to think that Johnson could continue to improve despite already being top of the league in various statistical categories.
Matt Schaub needs to stay healthy this year, as the Texans are facing a big option payment for him at the end of the year. Johnson would likely want Schaub healthy too. Last year, Johnson averaged 107 yards with Schaub as quarterback, and 88.6 yards with former backup Sage Rosenfels (the numbers throw out the Vikings game, as the quarterbacks split time).
Personally, I think Andre Johnson is the best receiver in the league given his age, his physical ability, his work ethic and who he has as complementary receivers. I don't think that Shanahan is just making coordinator nice talk when he thinks Johnson could be better. I think that the entire Texans offense has the ability to get better, especially in the red zone, as the players work under the system longer.
I think the video is interesting to watch for those who haven't heard Shanahan the younger speak much. Later in the talk, in response to a question, he said that he plans to stay with the Texans and isn't interested in coaching with his dad, Mike Shanahan. Of course, that's what anyone would certainly say with a hypothetical question of that nature.