It’s long past time that we started talking about Houston Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye, and what better time than coming off a week in which he earned a spot on Pro Football Focus' Team of the Week for his primetime display on Monday night?
Bouye has been the best cornerback this season for the Texans—a stable that features three former first-round picks outside of him—and in fact, has been one of the best-performing NFL CBs period when on the field.
He currently sits atop this season's CB grades, with a 92.8 mark—two points clear of any other corner, and almost eight points ahead of any other Texans CB.
Bouye was an undrafted free agent in 2013 out of Central Florida, and coming into this season, the most he had played was in his second season, where he totaled 644 snaps as Houston’s nickel corner. His play that season wasn’t bad at all; Bouye gave up three touchdowns, but he also recorded three picks, four pass breakups, and was only beaten for 9.9 yards per catch. Quarterbacks throwing in his direction in 2014 had a passer rating of 75.3, which is more than 10 points below average.
Last season saw him slip further down the depth chart, as he only saw 211 snaps on defense, but this season he has already exceeded that (289), thanks in part to injuries affording him the opportunity he might not otherwise have had.
For the season, Bouye has been thrown at 32 times, allowing 17 of them to be caught (53.1 percent), and has yet to allow a touchdown. He hasn’t notched an interception yet this season, but job No. 1 of a cornerback is to prevent the catch, and anything above that is a bonus.
QBs targeting Bouye this season have a passer rating of 64.2, more than 20 points below average, and he has six pass breakups to his name.
What’s more, since his role has been expanded, he has been facing some relatively legit receivers. Against the Colts, he was thrown at just three times, and didn’t allow T.Y. Hilton to catch a pass into his coverage. Against the Broncos, he was tested far more, with 10 passes sent his way, but he allowed just 38 total yards.
Demaryius Thomas caught three of the five passes thrown his way on Monday with Bouye covering him, but they went for just 19 total yards. When Emmanuel Sanders was thrown at with Bouye as the primary coverage defender, both passes were broken up. That doesn’t count another pass defense he notched on a play that was nullified by a defensive offsides penalty on LB Brian Cushing in the game.
On that play, Bouye was playing a deep zone and came over the top of the post route to bat the pass away, earning him a positive grade on the play—but it doesn’t show on the stat sheet because of the penalty.
Right now, Bouye is having the best year of his young career, and is outperforming a series of first-round cornerbacks in the Houston secondary. He is one of the stories of the season now that it's almost halfway through, so it’s time he started to see some more ink.