With Johnson dealt, Texans look to other DTs

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The Texans' trade of Travis Johnson wasn’t exactly an exercise in gaining value. In exchange for the 16th pick in the 2005 draft, Houston gets a conditional pick, either a fifth- or sixth-rounder from San Diego, depending on how Johnson performs.

While I was in Houston recently, Johnson was still out recovering from surgery to repair a sports hernia. But the company line was that while Johnson got a lot of grief from the media and fans, he ate up blockers the way the team wanted him to. Maybe it’s reasonable to think now, they were just trying to keep his image as polished as they could knowing they were going to try to get something for him.

Monday night against the Vikings on national TV, the Texans will aim to show they can stop the run much better than they did in their last game, when the Saints ran it right up the middle on them.

With or without Johnson, the Texans need to see more from their interior linemen, starting with third-year man Amobi Okoye. But he plays the spot next to the one Johnson was in, and DelJuan Robinson and Frank Okam have not been especially impressive in that spot so far. Shaun Cody is due to get more of a look. When the team signed him as a free agent, the talk was of his ability to play both inside spots.

The Texans will hope for continued growth from Robinson and Okam and a better showing from Cody. Certainly it’s fair to expect that third down will feature end Antonio Smith kicking inside with rookie Connor Barwin getting on the field to rush the passer.

Johnson finishes his Texans career with 52 appearances, including 38 starts. He had 124 tackles, two sacks, one interception and one forced fumble to show for all that time on the field. You’d think a few more big plays would have happened for him just by accident.