FOXBORO -- Safe to say, Andre Johnson is back.
After missing more than half of last season with a torn ACL, the Texans wide receiver is once again one of the most productive in the league. He ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,114 yards and he's seventh with 87 catches.
Johnson's former college teammate at the University of Miami, Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, sang the receiver's praises on Thursday.
"Talk about a team player," Wilfork said. "He has a heart of a champion. He's very quiet. He doesn't say much. I just remember playing with him in college. He was always quiet but he was a fireball on the field. He gives it his all. He plays hurt. He's a tough, tough football player."
Johnson could make life tough for Patriots defensive backs on Monday night. He doesn't have the breakaway speed he possessed when he was named a First-Team All-Pro in 2008 and 2009, but he still finds ways to get open.
The Texans running game is so potent with running back Arian Foster that Johnson is oftentimes the beneficiary of play action. When teams begin to overplay the run, that's when quarterback Matt Schaub and Johnson are able to connect for big plays.
Wilfork said that Houston's offensive line -- which utilizes a zone blocking scheme, a staple of former offensive line coach Alex Gibbs -- does a good job of disguising both the run and the pass.
"They cut. They don't cut. They man block. They double. They keep it moving," Wilfork said of the Texans offensive line. "They definitely keep it moving. You really can't get a beat on them when they running a zone, or when they running the ball, or when they passing the ball because they do a real good job up front of showing you the same look on run and pass.
"We're just going to have to rely on technique, good fundamentals. Play what we see. Games like this, it always comes back to playing good technique."