The news of Will Fuller’s impending return means a few things for the Texans’ offense. They get back one of their most explosive weapons, a guy whose speed can give flat-footed defensive backs heart attacks. More than that, the Texans will have their WR2 back to play opposite DeAndre Hopkins. Whilst that may be obvious, it raises a very interesting question surrounding who plays behind those two.
Over the past few weeks, Houston’s offense has relied on heavy blocking schemes. Additional tight ends, offensive linemen, and running backs have been brought in to provide help for the offensive line. This has led to the Texans shying away from much in the way of spread style alignments. As of last week’s game against the Patriots, the Texans have yet to play a single snap where they have lined up four wide receivers. Of course, this partially due to the fact that the Texans have struggled to have four healthy wide receivers even available on game day.
However, with Fuller’s return, the question becomes whether the Texans will start to move toward a more open and expansive set of packages now that they have the personnel to field those packages. Or will they stay with what they have been doing with heavy blocking and the occasional three wide receiver sets?
Those three wideout sets are something to over the next few weeks. Bruce Ellington’s performance in New England was a warning shot across the bow of Braxton Miller’s ship. Ellington went from 57% of the total offensive snaps in Week One to being on the field for 99% of the offensive snaps against the Patriots last Sunday.
The tape and stats confirm the same story when comparing Bruce Ellington and Braxton Miller. Miller has struggled to separate in tight man coverage and has had issues when it comes to catching the ball. After a strong preseason, Ellington had a breakout performance against the Patriots by finding spaces in between zone coverage and making tough contested catches. Both are similar receivers in style, with both projecting to be quicker, shiftier receivers who primarily operate from the slot.
Just who is going to be getting those WR3 snaps for the Texans? Will the Texans start to roll out more four wide looks with Fuller returning?