HOUSTON -- Travis Johnson was heralded as an all-around defensive lineman when the Houston Texans drafted him 16th in 2005.
He was supposed to be strong, explosive and as tough a pass rusher as he was against the run.
But with two disappointing seasons behind him, Johnson has yet to live up to that potential and it might be time to wonder if he ever will.
Johnson had 26 tackles and a sack in 15 games as a rookie while struggling to adjust to former coach Dom Capers' 3-4 defense after playing in a 4-3 system at Florida State.
Coach Gary Kubiak said last year in minicamp that he was the player who had the most work to do before training camp began. It appeared that talk worked as Johnson arrived at camp 20 pounds lighter, with a new attitude and excited to be back in a 4-3 scheme.
Unfortunately, it didn't translate into more success in 2006 and Johnson managed just 11 tackles in nine games, eight of which he started. He spent the last seven weeks of the season on injured reserve with a torn calf muscle.
Johnson was outperformed last season by Anthony Maddox, who was signed from the practice squad and finished with 37 tackles, two sacks and forced a fumble which he returned for a touchdown.
The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Johnson said he's prepared for a better year in 2007.
"A lot of us got stuff to prove," Johnson said. "Really you just want to go out there with a chip on your shoulder and prove everybody wrong and prove you are the right person for the job and you belong here. You know what I mean?"
He has more and tougher competition now in 20-year-old rookie tackle Amobi Okoye, the 10th pick in this year's draft. Okoye has already gained the starting job, with Johnson as his backup.
Competition is something Johnson said he won't shy away from.
"Competition helps us all out," he said. "It makes us all better. If you were the only person in the world, you'd be sorry because there wouldn't be anybody to push you, wouldn't be anybody to motivate you and to learn from. So, that's just how it is out here."
Though Johnson didn't have any tackles, Kubiak was pleased with Johnson's performance in Houston's preseason opener against the Bears.
"Travis Johnson continues to take a step forward with this team, and did that in the game," Kubiak said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press