Kevin Johnson inconsistent as A.J. Bouye's replacement at corner

HOUSTON -- When the Houston Texans let cornerback A.J. Bouye walk in free agency, they were hoping 2015 first-round pick Kevin Johnson could step up and replace his production.

Johnson missed four weeks with a sprained MCL, but even when he's been healthy, he has been inconsistent. Meanwhile in Jacksonville, Bouye has continued his form from 2016 and has thrived alongside second-year star Jalen Ramsey to form an elite cornerback duo.

Bouye is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with six, and he has broken up an additional 10 passes. According to ESPN Stats & Information, his 16 combined interceptions and pass breakups are second most in the NFL to Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward, who has 18. Two of Bouye’s six interceptions came on Sunday against Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.

Bouye signed with the Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and developed a lot during his time in Houston, taking a big step forward in 2016. He started the season as the team’s fourth cornerback and finished as the best.

“When we got here, he hadn’t played a whole lot, played special teams our first year,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “I think he was the third or fourth corner. Really one of those guys who just really put in a lot of time with the coaches and on his own to get better. I remember he came back in 2015 and he had changed his whole body. He had worked out in a different way and he was in great condition and he became, really, a top corner for us.”

Bouye got a huge raise in the offseason; in 2016 he turned down a small, multiyear contract with the Texans, instead playing out his final year before hitting free agency. Bouye bet on himself and had his best season, which led to a $67.5 million contract with the Jaguars in March.

“That’s the way the NFL’s set up with free agency,” O’Brien said. “You do the best you can to keep the guy and in the end, it’s up to the player to make that choice and he chose to go to Jacksonville. We have great respect for A.J. ... There’s no doubt about that.”

Johnson has dealt with injuries -- he missed four games with the knee injury and left the Texans’ Week 11 loss to the Arizona Cardinals with a concussion -- but has no interceptions and only two pass breakups this season. There are 147 players with more combined interceptions and pass breakups this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Veterans Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson have been the Texans' primary corners, along with Johnson, this season. Houston has decisions to make in its secondary during the offseason, as Joseph will become a free agent and Jackson has a potential out in his contract, which runs through next season.

The Texans drafted cornerback Treston Decoud in the fifth round of the 2017 draft, but he has not seen a lot of playing time, even when Johnson was injured. Johnson certainly will be around next season, but the Texans need to decide whether they can trust him enough to be one of their top corners going into 2018.

If the Texans can't trust Johnson, they could bring back Joseph, 33, or make a significant free-agent investment in their secondary.