Perhaps more than any other factor, the health and injury status of the receivers will determine the fate of the 2020 Houston Texans.
If you’re concerned about the lengthy injury histories that accompany the Houston Texans‘ skill position players in 2020 — particularly those that catch passes — you’re not alone.
With DeAndre Hopkins now suiting up alongside Larry Fitzgerald in the desert, the projected receiver depth chart for the Texans this year goes something like this: Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills, Randall Cobb, Keke Coutee.
The good news? That’s arguably the most depth Houston has had at wide receiver in the past three years since Deshaun Watson first arrived at quarterback in 2017.
The bad news? Those same five players have missed a combined 52 regular season games between them over that same three-year window.
Fuller, the presumed WR1 now that Hopkins is gone, has yet to play a full 16-game season in his four-year career as a pro. Per Sports Injury Predictor, which details the full injury histories of NFL players, Fuller has so far suffered a variety of ailments to his collarbone, hamstring, groin, chest, and ACL … and those are just the injuries that have officially been documented.
Cooks, projected as either the WR2 or perhaps even the WR1, is in his first season with the Texans after coming over from the L.A. Rams. While he’s a terrific player when healthy — he’s responsible for four separate 1,000+ yard campaigns in six pro seasons — he’s also been hit with at least five concussions since he came into the league in 2014.
Of the bunch, Stills arguably has the “best” injury history. While playing for three separate teams (Saints, Dolphins, Texans), he’s played a full 16-game season four times out of seven as a pro, and in two other seasons he’s only missed a game each. The problem with Stills, however, is that he missed three games just last season — his only season to date with Houston — because of hamstring and knee issues.
Cobb has the most mileage on him after having played nine seasons in the NFL now — eight with Green Bay and one with Dallas. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2015, and he’s missed time in at least seven of his nine years in the league.
Finally, there’s Coutee. The fourth-round pick from two years ago missed significant time as a rookie because of a lingering hamstring injury (10 games in all), and he also dealt with a knee injury and other problems that cost him seven games last season.
It’s not just the wide receivers who have injury concerns though…
The question marks and worries also extend to other pass-catchers on the Texans roster — namely, the player who came over in the Hopkins trade.
David Johnson is expected to carry a heavy workload in 2020 as a dual-threat weapon who can rush and receive with equal aplomb. That’s all well and good, of course, provided he can stay healthy.
After a monster 2016 season with the Cardinals, Johnson suffered a wrist injury in Week 1 of 2017 that cost him the rest of that season. He played all 16 games in 2018 but averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, and then found himself tumbling down the depth chart last year as he battled back and ankle injuries.
While the other Johnson in the backfield (Duke) has proven himself to be remarkably durable throughout his time with the Texans and throughout his career in general — and the top-two tight ends on the Houston roster also have been relatively injury-free throughout their careers — that might not be enough this year should anything happen to the top wideouts and/or David Johnson.