We know that the Houston Texans have been upgrading the wide receiver roster in the last two seasons, but with the addition of first-round pick Will Fuller, is there room for vet Cecil Shorts III?
When Cecil Shorts III signed with the Texans last year, he was considered to be a an experienced receiver that can take the pressure off of DeAndre Hopkins and try to be the experienced wideout since Andre Johnson was let go.
Shorts had a strong sophomore season for the Jaguars in 2012, when he caught 55 passes for 979 yards and seven touchdowns. He followed that up with a career-high 66 catches in 2013. But nagging injuries forced his numbers to drop across the board in 2014, and was cut after the Jags drafted two young wide receivers in Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson.
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In 2015, Shorts was productive despite another injury-plagued year. He was a nice target in the first four games of the season, including a six-reception, 87-yard performance against Atlanta. But after that game, his hamstring started to flare up again and played in only seven of the Texans’ last 14 games.
Shorts also saw his numbers suffer due to the musical chairs at quarterback with Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett. Neither QB really targeted Cecil a whole lot (he had double-digit targets in only three games), while Hopkins got 31 percent of the pass targets. Also, Jaelen Strong got more targets late in the season and showed signs that he could be a stronger weapon in the passing game than Shorts.
So to recap, Shorts was hurt for most of the season and put up his lowest stats in his career (42 catches, 484 yards and two touchdowns). And to add to that, he will take a pay cut in 2016 from $2.75 million to $1.2 million with bonuses. Oh yeah, and the Texans got a wideout in the first round of the draft, along with a speedy athlete in Braxton Miller in the later rounds.
Those are ominous signs that Shorts could be let go if he doesn’t have a productive camp or if Fuller or Strong stand out and get used to new quarterback Brock Osweiler. But there are a few signs that Cecil could play a bigger role in the new offense. Shorts is a veteran receiver that is still pretty young at 28, and still has enough speed to be a good insurance policy if Fuller isn’t ready to get a lot of targets early in the season, or if Strong regresses or doesn’t improve a lot from last season.
Also, Shorts got a lot of time on special teams as a punt returner in 2015, catching nine punts for 70 return yards. If the Texans can’t find a better replacement (Miller more likely could be it), Shorts could stay on as a steady returner.
Probably the big determining factor if Cecil Shorts is going to stay on the Texans roster is if he can get past his injury problems and show veteran leadership among the young receivers. Heading into his sixth year in the NFL, Shorts still has a few years left in him and if he can be a good veteran presence. Hopkins is the playmaker of the group, but Shorts could easily become a strong possession receiver like a Wes Welker or a Brandon Stokely. If he can become that type of receiver, then Shorts could be become just as valuable a target as Hopkins is.