Going into the 2016 season, the wide receiver position, in my opinion, was the Houston Texans’ strongest overall unit on paper. That all changed quickly after a string of injuries and inconsistency in performance from the slot failed to give Bill O'Brien's offense any ability to keep opposing defenses guessing. It still isn't clear if the Texans have a guy on the roster who can take the position by the reins and become a force in this offense.
Jaelen Strong was only able to produce fourteen catches in seven games last year. Before he was sent to Injured Reserve, Braxton Miller only hauled in fifteen catches for 99 yards in ten games. His replacement on the roster, Wendall Williams, had just three catches for 75 yards in three games. Even accepting the injury issues, this limited sample shows that there simply wasn't enough production in the slot.
In today’s NFL, entire offensive systems are sometimes centered around the slot receiver. In New England, the Patriots enjoyed great success at slot receiver with Troy Brown, Wes Welker, and now Julian Edelman catching passes from Tom Brady. Brown, Welker, and Edelman combined for six 100-catch seasons (Welker also had 111 catches in 2008 with Matt Cassel under center).
With yet another new quarterback under center this season, Houston’s offense will place additional emphasis on getting rid of the ball quickly. The best way to do that is for the QB to look underneath. Tom Savage or Deshaun Watson should heavily rely on their slot receivers to help this offense move the chains. It remains to be seen if any player from this group will emerge.
The addition of Wes Welker as an offensive assistant should hopefully help get the most from this group. I'm certain that O'Brien knows the importance of the slot receiver’s role in his offense, and so far he has no reason to be impressed with the production of anyone on the current roster who has lined up in the slot.
Don't be surprised if the Texans bring in some new blood to challenge for snaps during training camp or in the preseason.