When the news broke that Houston Texans second-year speedster Will Fuller broke his collarbone and would be out indefinitely, there was no lack of people forecasting doom and gloom for the H-Town offense. Without Fuller to take the top off opposing defenses, Houston’s passing game would certainly be doomed.
While losing Fuller certainly isn’t good news, his loss really isn’t as major as some would have us believe.
Sure, Fuller is the fastest of the starting pass catchers, but he’s also the least sure-handed. In fact, it will be a long time before any true Texans fan forgets his dropped touchdown in the 2016 NFL Playoffs in the loss to New England.
Other recent memories that should stand out include Fuller losing a footrace to Akeem Hunt and Wendall Williams.
When looking at the New England Patriots offense (you know, the one that Houston’s unit is patterned after), having a speedster to open up the secondary has rarely been a necessity. When Randy Moss was there, it was a noticeable addition. Prior to Moss’ arrival, Deion Branch had some wheels to be sure. But a track star is far from a must-have to make this offense work.
Using the run to set up the pass is still a viable adage in the modern NFL. That all starts with the offensive line. If that unit can blow the defense off the ball and open up running lanes, Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman will have success. With that success comes opportunities to get the ball in the hands of DeAndre Hopkins.
After Hopkins, we all know how the tight end corps surged last season, even with you-know-who throwing them the ball.
Beyond that, let’s take a look at the other options Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson will have available to them in the passing game.
Braxton Miller – Just as Terrelle Pryor is finally coming into his own, Houston’s favorite NCAA star quarterback turned wide receiver has so much upside ahead of him it’s hard to quantify. A recent training camp quote referred to Miller’s route running by calling him a “technician.” This league isn’t about running away from the defender so much as it is making them zig when you zag. If the sure-handed Miller has really improved that dramatically in his passing tree, leaving defenders whiffing should come easy.
Jaelen Strong – Despite his offseason indiscretion last year, Strong still has some solid upside. His size creates mismatches with smaller corners; his peerless ability to go up and get jump balls and his route running all bring the qualities that make for a workhorse in this league. While Strong’s no Andre Johnson, he has more than shown the ability to contribute to this team week in and week out.
Wendall Williams – W2 is the prototypical old school Al Davis’s Oakland Raiders receiver. He’s faster than anyone else on the field when he’s on, burns a straight line like a laser beam, and he will run away from anyone on the opposing defense if he gets the ball in space. Last year he had some issues with his fundamentals, but this year he’s working with Wes Welker, a man known for solid fundamentals. If Williams can develop into a dependable player for even twenty percent of the snaps, he could easily replace the take-the-top-off aspect lost when Fuller’s collarbone snapped. And if he gets integrated into kick return duties, watch out.
Not to say Fuller-Schmuller, but losing him for the first two to three months of the season is certainly a blow the Texans can recover from quickly and completely.
What do you think? Are you lamenting the loss of Fuller? Counting the minutes until he can participate in contact drills? Praying one of the other receivers uses this opportunity to go all A.J. Bouye on 2017?