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Red Zone Play: Drop Fuller?

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Will Will Fuller blossom or wilt in 2017?

NFL: AFC Divisional-Houston Texans at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Will Fuller’s first full season as a Houston Texan is long over and the results were mixed. While most of the Texans’ number one draft picks over the last ten years have gone on to solid, and in many cases amazing, careers, Fuller seems to resemble the stereotype of the track-star-who-can’t-catch type receiver the league has seen all too often in the past.

Guys like Rocket Ismail, James Jett, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Trindon Holliday come to mind when you think about how pure speed doesn’t translate to Pro Bowl pass catcher.

On the other side of that coin, you have guys like Randy Moss, Joey Galloway and DeSean Jackson. Receivers who weren’t just greased lightning, but could actually get open, make the catch, and torch a defense on a regular basis.

Judging Fuller after one year is certainly unfair and hardly off a reliable sample-size, particularly when you consider who was throwing him the ball in the 14 games he started last season. But going into his sophomore campaign, Fuller is already catching more heat than footballs due to his inability to consistently come down with the rock.

Over the course of the 2016 season, Fuller caught 47 passes for 635 yards for a 13.5 yard per catch average. While he was on fire in the first few weeks of the year, once New England showed everyone how to contain him, his results dropped like a playoff touchdown slipping through his fingers.

Now that Houston should have more talent under center and a more laser-focused offensive effort to enforce the Win Now attitude the club has taken, the question at hand is whether Fuller blossom or wilt in 2017.

At a glance, it might seem like Houston’s wide receiver corps is loaded. When examining it a bit harder, question marks pop up throughout the depth chart. DeAndre Hopkins will most likely return to Pro Bowl status this season, but if he doesn’t, that leaves Fuller as the guy to carry the corps. Behind Fuller are Braxton Miller, Jaelen Strong, Wendell Williams, and a slew of names you’ve probably never heard of. Not exactly “Greatest Show on Turf” material – but solid enough to get the job done if they all do their best.

One area Fuller did shine in last year was ball security. He fumbled the football a whopping zero times. Another was in the return game, where he scored not once but twice on punt returns. Since Houston has lacked a solid return man since the epic fail at the end of Jacoby Jones’ run in H-Town, maybe moving Fuller to the return role and bringing in a guy like the recently released Jeremy Maclin makes more sense.

With Maclin opposite Hopkins, Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman in the backfield and C.J. Fiedorowicz filling the tight end role, suddenly Houston’s offense starts to look a little scary to opposing defenses. Toss in the ability to run the occasional gadget or wildcat play with Braxton Miller or Deshaun Watson, and match-up nightmares begin dancing in opposing defensive coordinators’ heads.

However, odds are Maclin will land somewhere else, so before we get all fanboy wish-fulfillment on that idea, let’s just assume it’s not going to happen and get back to Fuller.

From a coaching standpoint, dropped passes are often correctable once you ascertain the root cause. Is it a concentration problem? A catching technique problem? An eyesight problem?

The first two can definitely be fixed (if Fuller is a willing student) using proven receiving techniques. Since Fuller now has Wes Welker, DeAndre Hopkins and some guy named “Greatest Pass Catcher in Houston Texans History” (that’s Andre Johnson to those of you with no clue) around, the chance for him to see an exponential increase in his pass catching skil-lset is there in spades.

In the unlikely event it’s an eyesight problem, that too can be overcome with prescription eyewear or a face shield on his helmet. No matter what it is, it should be something the Texans can remedy as long as Fuller is willing to do what it takes to become an elite pass catcher.

If the reports are to be believed, he’ll have Tom Savage launching the ball downfield at will this year. Dog Savage all you want, but that man has a cannon for an arm. If Fuller can manage to run under the ball, wrap his fingertips around it and pull it in securely, he’ll be able to join the ranks of the Duane Brown, J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney, Deandre Hopkins and, oh yeah, Andre Johnson, as a Houston Texans first round superstar.

For this team to play in the metaphorical Red Zone, they’ll need Fuller to do just that and then some.

Where do you rate Houston’s receiving corps? Give us your thoughts below.