After putting up 1,210 yards and scoring six touchdowns off of 76 receptions last season, DeAndre Hopkins made it very clear that he is the top wide receiver for the Houston Texans. By cutting long-time star receiver and face of the franchise, Andre Johnson, the Texans showed that they expect Hopkins to take that role and run away with it.
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Houston also showed that they understand Hopkins will need some talent around him to continue to improve the offense. They demonstrated this by signing two divisional rival receivers in Nate Washington from Tennessee and Cecil Shorts III, who they took away from Jacksonville.
Both receivers have starting experience, but Washington is much more experienced and has shown leadership skills in the past. Washington also brings with him two Super Bowl rings, both of which he won with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The team also made a commitment during the draft to stockpile wide out talent as they selected Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong in the third round. The next time Houston was on the clock was the fifth round, and again they went with a receiver, taking Keith Mumphery out of Michigan State.
After all these maneuvers were done, it seems that head coach Bill O’Brien does not believe any of the remaining receivers from last season, not named DeAndre will be a huge factor in the passing game in 2015, with maybe the exception of recently re-signed slot receiver Damaris Johnson.
The question though seems to be, who will start opposite “Nuk” Hopkins? Tania Ganguli of ESPN recently discussed that very question after it was asked to her via Twitter.
"The top options here include free-agent pickups Nate Washington (31) and Cecil Shorts III (27), and rookie Jaelen Strong, who was taken in the third round with the 70th pick in this year’s draft. Strong’s start has been delayed a bit, and we’ll get to that more later. Coach Bill O’Brien was effusive in his praise of Washington last week. “I really like Nate. I think he’s been a good addition to our football team, both from a veteran leadership standpoint and then from his route-running ability. He’s really practiced hard all spring. He’s been here a lot. He’s been out there every day at practice. He’s picked up our offense well. He’s always communicating with the other receivers and the quarterbacks. I think he’s going to add a lot to our offense. I’m glad he’s here.”"
From the take Ganguli gives here, it seems like the favorite to win the job is the veteran Nate Washington. He does have the experience, and durability to make him a viable option for Houston.
After playing only one game in 2005, the undrafted free agent from Tiffin University has played in all sixteen games since 2006. Not only has he played, but he has been very productive as well, with his best season coming in 2011 with the Titans when he had 74 catches for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns.
While there may have been a decline in the last couple of seasons, the veteran still averaged 16.2 yards per reception in 2014 and has over 15 yards per catch in his ten-year career.
Obviously, it is early in the process, so players like Strong or Shorts may emerge and win the second starting spot. However, if the Texans send Washington out as the starting receiver opposite Hopkins, he most likely will not disappoint.