Texans’ receiving corps has talent to be dominant
The Houston Texans have failed to produce a high-flying offense since Bill O’Brien signed on as head coach, but the wide receiving corp has the potential to be elite.
The Texans have used three first-round selections on wide receivers in the team’s brief history. Andre Johnson (2004), Deandre Hopkins (2013), and Will Fuller (2016) have that honor.
Hopkins and Johnson have both made pro bowls within their first three seasons, while Fuller is entering year two and is behind the learning curve.
Hopkins has proven he is an all-pro talent who has been hampered by horrendous quarterback play since he was drafted. The play behind center should change with the help of veteran Tom Savage and rookie Deshaun Watson. Hopkins will prove that last season was a down season.
It’s up to Fuller and Braxton Miller to emerge.
During his tenure at Penn State, O’Brien scouted Fuller when he was a senior in high school.
The infatuation O’Brien has with Miller’s speed and agility is telling to how the Texans’ head coach plans to use him.
Former Ohio State star Braxton Miller has video game like agility, as highlighted by his physics defying home-run spin move against Virginia Tech.
Both Miller and Fuller have agility oozing out of them and should be able to excel heading into their second season.
With the help of newly acquired assistant coach and former New England Patriots slot machine Wes Welker, the Texans should be able to utilize these talents.
Welker knows how important a slot receiver can be to a team’s receiving corps. Miller should benefit directly, as he acknowledged after a practice per the team’s official website:
"“The role he played is the type of role I’m playing in this offense, o it’s a great opportunity for me to learn from one of the greatest slot players to play the game. Especially in this type of system.”"
Miller is eager to improve with Welker.
Welker was an escape artist while operating against slot defenders and excelled at the quick twitch routes.
The Texans have two similarly skilled wide outs in the aforementioned Fuller and Miller. They are a perfect scheme fit for the quick-style offense O’Brien ran in New England; and the same quick reads Watson ran in college while at Clemson.
"Miller has shown an eagerness with Welker as well stating that “I’m always in his ear, bugging him, as you can see after practice. I was just asking him all types of questions. What did he see? What did I do wrong today? After every play, he’s always correcting what I did wrong. Then I just go out there on the next play and fix it.”"
Hopkins is a true number one receiver and will be treated as such by opposing defenses.
At the same time, having a matured Fuller opposite him as well as a confident Miller in the slot, will finally allow the Texans to implement O’Brien’s desired scheme.
The goal is that when teams try to double-team Hopkins, they will regret it.
Allowing Miller and Fuller to be guarded one on one or in some instances without safety help; will be an egregious mistake by opposing defenses. Obviously, this will all take time, but the talent is there.
With both Miller and Fuller having a rough rookie season but a full offseason to work, they should have grown a lot since being drafted over a year ago.
Related Story: Sounds like Tom Savage, Braxton Miller are making progress
The talent does not stop with Miller and Fuller.
Jaelen Strong and Keith Mumphrey were both selected in the 2015 draft in the third and fifth rounds, respectively.
While Mumphrey has been utilized on special teams and a fifth wide receiver. That may be in jeopardy with his most recent legal trouble. If all is cleared, Mumphrey is expected to be in competition for the fifth wide out role this coming season.
Strong has all the talent to be the number two wide receiver in Houston.
Honestly, if something goes horribly wrong with Fuller or if Strong is given a chance he may just take that job out right. Since being called out by O’Brien for being out of shape, Strong has come into OTA’s ready to go and willing to work.
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In his limited time in regular season action, Strong was a positive player as a receiver. Most notably, his games against the rival Indianapolis Colts have been the highlights of his career.
Strong has five catches for 112 yards and three touchdowns in three career games against the Colts.
Strong and Mumphrey should be extra motivated as both will be playing for their second NFL contract.
The Texans receiving corps has five young and talented pass catchers at Bill O’Brien’s disposal. Technically, he had the same ones last season as well. With the added experience and presence of Welker, things should improve exponentially.
With a full season under the belts of Fuller and Miller aided by Welker, the presence of Hopkins, and the competition driving them from below the depth chart, the Houston Texans’ wide receiving corps is built for a breakout season.