Special Teamers Smith, Fairbairn, Johnston earn praise from Texans head coach

Dec 11, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Houston Texans place kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn (7) kicks a 43-yard field goal during the first half against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teamers Smith, Fairbairn, Johnston earn praise from Texans head coach

Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith had positive statements on his special teams units, with a few players, in particular, standing out.

Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn is a Pro Bowl alternate this year and is the second Texans player in team history with at least four seasons of 100+ points scored. Fairbairn is 27-for-29 on field goals this season, including a perfect 5-for-5 from 50+ yards. He has connected on all 21 extra point attempts.

Lovie Smith explained that his value is more than just the field goals.

“The kickoffs have been really good. If you noticed on the first kickoff versus Tennessee, the ball got really close to the 15-yard line. There was a gust of wind, and he was able then to adjust as the game went on. That’s really who he’s been for this season. He’s done a good job of the daily regimen. Any time he’s rolled out there, we expect to make kicks. He’s done a great job of adjusting when those are needed. The hang times on the kickoffs has allowed us to be successful in coverage and having everybody down inside of that 30-yard line when the ball is being caught. So far he’s had a good year. We’ve got two more big ones to go here and finish the season strong on what’s been a good year to this point.”

On a better offensive team, Fairbairn likely has over 130 points with the added opportunities. Fairbairn has also been very good not only at touchbacks, but as Smith stated, the hang time on kicks shorter than the end zone, that have resulted in strong coverage.

Tremon Smith has been a big part of special teams coverage for the Texans, particularly on punt coverage. He has been among the best in the league downing punts. His coach attributed some of his success to his pure athleticism.

“I’ll get some flack for this, but Tremon Smith is the best all-around athlete on our football team. I’ll go ahead and start some debates with those guys in there if they hear me say that. Baseball player, Hooper, can catch, can throw, can run, all that good stuff. The athleticism part is where he’s been able to take advantage. He’s not the biggest or strongest guy, but he can run, and he has some good wiry athleticism. It’s helped him makes those plays. He made a big one at Jacksonville if you remember, with the ball checking into the end zone he kind of got his butt to the goal line and was able to bat it back and Grayland (Arnold) downed it. We saw that last week in the biggest clutch moment of the game. 96 yards with 1:10 to go for them. There’s not really much more you can ask for. He’ll tell you his best man, his setup man, his John Stockton has been Cam (Johnston), with the assist and putting that thing with hang and location. So far it’s been good. Just love the way those guys come to work. Big smile on his face. I need him to continue to do that for two more weeks.”

Smith also mentioned the unique relationship between punter Cam Johnston (also a Pro Bowl alternate) and gunner Tremon Smith, and the fact that his team may be facing one of the league’s best returners this week in Jacksonville’s Jamal Agnew.

“I think that they both understand where the placement is going to be as best we can. You can have a mishit of course, and then when it is, he usually knows which way it’s going to go on the mishit. It will be drifting one way. But the best friend to a punter is your one gunner. Cam (Johnston) doesn’t take that for granted, and he understands that Tremon (Smith) has been able to make a lot of plays right there and add to Cam’s donations to his charity for his punts downed inside of the 20. Hopefully we can continue to do that and manage field position against – I didn’t mention this in my opening statement – but really the best and most dangerous multiple-returner in the league. (Jamal) Agnew can run, he can outrace everyone to the perimeter. But great returners can go vertical. He can cut, stretch and cut, cut and wiggle on the move, and yet can stop and start while they don’t lose speed throughout their decel and accel. He’s our tallest task. We definitely have to have great lane discipline. We need to condense lanes with our press block take on. Tremon and those gunners are going to do that on the punt team, and Cam has to have a good day for us to be successful on Sunday.”

The Texans will look for their tenth consecutive victory against the Jaguars Sunday at NRG Stadium in Week 17.

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