With DeAndre Hopkins jettisoned to the dunes of Arizona and new faces Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb set to replace the intentional black hole left on offense, one of the most popular offseason discussions on many Texans message boards has revolved around Houston’s new offense. Hopkins’ departure created a mosh pit of what could have been discussions, with the other side of the spectrum of discord pondering numerous what-if scenarios for the incoming Cooks and Cobb. “How will Deshaun Watson adapt to an offense without his favorite target? How will Houston most effectively utilize Cooks and Cobb? Can this receiving corps even make it through a single season healthy?” But many have also looked back towards the now diminished Texans’ brass of 2019 and asked, “What do we have instead?” The face of this party of Texans also-rans is Will Fuller, finicky hamstring and all.
The tragic story of Will Fuller now echoes in the halls of Houston folklore, next to the ashes of D’Onta Foreman’s and [NAME REDACTED]’s contract. Will Fuller has made a name for himself as an excellent receiver who dramatically improves both Deshaun Watson’s play and the offense as a whole, but can never stay healthy long enough to be relied on. A player with 4.3 speed and a knack for getting open is enough to make any modern offensive coordinator drool, but as the old saying goes, the best ability is availability.
Even though this has become an accepted reality for most Texans fans, Will Fuller’s career is still far from over. Entering his fifth NFL season at age 26, he still has many years left and his best seasons are likely beyond the horizon. In fact, I believe that they are not only in the future, but they’ll start right now. Fuller is primed to have a breakout campaign. As Houston’s No. 1 wideout, he will finally deliver on the flashes of brilliance with a full season of production.
Why is this year the one he will finally stay healthy? Fuller has been training with the intent of gaining some weight and becoming more durable. Also coming off groin surgery during the offseason, Fuller has been touted by Overlord O’Brien as looking, “...as good as he’s ever looked.” Of course, a head coach should always back up their players, but an improved workout routine that is designed to prevent recurring injuries is a tangible step in the right direction and tells us that Will Fuller is doing everything in his power to keep his motor running for a full 16 games. In fact, even though he is injury prone, Fuller has only gone one season without playing 10+ games (2018).
Public perception has a knack for creating a narrative difficult to escape, as Kirk Cousins will happily tell you. Will Fuller’s entrapment within his own narrative isn’t the blockbuster that Cousins lives, but it is an uphill battle nonetheless.
Since entering the league, Will Fuller has participated in more Texans games than J.J. Watt.
This stat is certainly not a testament to Fuller’s health, but a challenge to how a popular sentiment can influence the reputation of a player. Will Fuller has proven he can at least play the majority of the season; it’s just a matter of week to week availability and production.
I also believe the now incredibly deep Will Fuller insurance policy (Cooks, Stills, Coutee) will aid in dispersing passes across the entire receiver group, diminishing the chance of injury due to exhaustion or re-injury to Fuller (which occurred in Week 14 last year). Fuller will find it much easier to make an impact in all 16 games when he has prepared his body to endure more strain and has the opportunity to take a few snaps off because of similar deep threat receivers (Cooks, Stills) right behind him. But his better odds of remaining healthy are not the only reason Fuller will make a jump in 2020; he also has new look offensive coordinator Tim Kelly to thank.
While we don’t know the specifics of the Texans’ new offense, a brief glance at the top speeds of every starting wide receiver on the roster gives you a fair idea on what Kelly and O’Brien are planning. It wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine that they were taking notes during the blowout at Kansas City and decided it was finally time to copy off the smart kid and see what happens.
In all likelihood, the Texans’ 2020 offense will revolve heavily around passing downfield and beating teams with pure speed. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Deshaun Watson is one of the best deep passers in the game. A coterie of players like Fuller, Cooks, Stills, Cobb, and Coutee is practically a dare to opposing defenses to try and keep up with them. At the center of it all, Fuller will flourish.
With the most chemistry, practice time, and success catching balls from Watson, Fuller will command attention from the defense every time he steps on the field. Added reinforcements and improved health mean that the offense will not only see Fuller play every game of the season, but it will experience less of a drop off when he’s on the bench. This is truly a Will Fuller inspired offense. While that is admittedly very risky, you can’t help but join O’Brien and Kelly in gazing into the Fuller abyss.
I I had to put some tangible stats on it, I’d take Will Fuller getting somewhere north of 70 receptions for around 1,100 yards and 6-8 touchdowns. Good enough for his first Pro Bowl!
What do you think? Is Fuller the savior of the Texans’ passing game? Pro Bowl bound? Or do you think the injury prone, unavailable narrative is more fire than smoke?
Follow me on Twitter for more Texans hot takes: @JoeCritz