Jaelen Strong: This kid is a gamer, needs more snaps


Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien has been criticized for his handling of the quarterback dilemma, and rightfully so. Even worse than the poor timing for bad plays by Brian Hoyer and more aggravating than Ryan Mallett throwing with the same velocity on a five yard pass as he does a 50 yarder has been the indecision by O’Brien.

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The frustration is felt by every fan, but there is another area O’Brien has been dropping the ball which has mainly gone unnoticed until now. The offense has been missing a spark and O’Brien refused to give a highly touted rookie an opportunity to provide one.

During the 2015 NFL Draft the Texans moved up in round three and selected Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong. The receiver did nothing in college except make big plays and improve every year.

The Philadelphia native transferred to ASU after playing at Los Angeles Pierce College and in two seasons in the Pac-12 recorded 157 receptions for 2,287 yards and 17 touchdowns.

After his two productive seasons Strong was seen by some as a potential late first round or second round talent. For Houston, he fit a need and came at enormous value in round three.

After granting all time reception leader Andre Johnson‘s request for a release the team lucked into a much younger replacement with similar measurements (Johnson 6’3″ 220 pounds, Strong 6’3″ 212 pounds).

He looked to be the perfect compliment to their featured receiver DeAndre Hopkins. You could have the stud Hopkins using his speed to stretch defenses with Strong using his frame and strong hands to be the possession guy. The Sun Devil looked poised to help with red zone plays and grabbing passes over the middle, which would make up for the fact that the Texans have a terrible group of tight ends.

Then came the preseason and fans started to get even more excited about the receiving corps potential. Newly singed Cecil Shorts III showed how dangerous he could be while Hopkins flashed the playmaking prowess he possesses.

Then there was Jaelen Strong who made his mark immediately by catching a touchdown on his first reception in the preseason. From there all he did was out-catch all other receivers and wound up with eight receptions for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

So what did head coach Bill O’Brien do with the third round selection and only member of the team to catch multiple touchdown passes in the preseason? He kept him inactive for four weeks and then only played him in Week 5 due to injuries to Shorts and Nate Washington.

Strong didn’t take much time to show what a horrendous mistake keeping him sidelined was. Just like in the preseason the rookie scored a touchdown on his first reception of the regular season.

A 42-yard hail mary to end the half found it’s way into Strong’s hands. Then to make sure people knew he wasn’t just a one-hit wonder, he later found himself running free in the red zone and hauled in an 11-yard score from Brian Hoyer.

Strong finished his first NFL game with two receptions for 53 yards and two touchdowns, proving that he simply is a gamer and should be on the field more.

Whatever the reason for not making Jaelen active to start the year, it is time to move on from it. There is no reason to have given a shot to receivers like the undrafted Chandler Worthy and fifth round selection Keith Mumphery and ignore the talented kid they moved up to grab.

Hopefully O’Brien doesn’t go back and forth on playing time here as he has for his quarterbacks. As bad as the offense has been, the team needs playmakers like Strong, he should be active every game and deserves many more snaps going forward.

Next: Houston Texans: Three defenders who need to step up