With the news that second-year wide receiver Will Fuller is facing surgery to repair a broken collarbone he suffered during Wednesday’s practice, it’s now known that Fuller is expected to be missing for up to 12 weeks.
That timetable assures that Fuller will miss multiple weeks to start the 2017 season for the Texans and that he could be a candidate to open the season on the PUP list.
Now that it’s known that the Texans offense will be without the speedy Fuller for a significant time, it’s time to look at how Bill O’Brien could alter Houston’s struggling passing game and how it might affect the roster.
Last season, the Texans were in ’11’ personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) 61 percent of the time, slightly above the league average of 60.4 percent. With Fuller missing from the lineup and the Texans investing a third-round pick on Texans running back D’Onta Foreman to spell Lamar Miller, that percentage is sure to drop.
The Texans also have three tight ends who can play, as witnessed by that group’s success last season when they accounted for over 30 percent of Brock Osweiler’s targets.
O’Brien is likely to run a more traditional offense with two running backs at times, but the Texans also could choose to employ a lot more ’12’ sets with two tight ends.
C.J. Fiedorowicz (89) and Ryan Grifin (74) finished third and fourth respectively in targets for the club last season and could be heavily targeted again while Fuller is sidelined.
Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins is clearly the star of Houston’s offense and will undoubtedly lead the team in targets, but Fuller’s absence leaves the Texans woefully short of proven talent in their receiving corps.
Second-year receiver Braxton Miller caught only 15 balls for 99 yards last season and is expected to stay in the slot, but could also move outside in two-receiver sets.
The most likely candidate to start in Fuller’s vacated outside receiver spot is third-year man Jaelen Strong. Strong is listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds but dropped some weight this offseason in the hopes of playing faster. That increased speed could help Strong earn a much larger role early on.
26-year-old Wendell Williams played in three games for the Texans last season, catching four passes for 75 yards.
Recently-signed four-year veteran Devin Street also has some experience to go along with plus size.
Other wide receivers vying for playing time in Texans camp include second-year players Dres Anderson and DeAndrew White, and undrafted free agent rookies Justin Hardee, Riley McCarron, and Chris Thompson.
Without a lot of proven players behind DeAndre Hopkins, the Texan may be forced to keep five wide receiver and three tight ends on their 53-man roster. Should that be the team’s approach, it will make it difficult for the team to keep more than three running backs and fullback Jay Prosch.
With Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman locks to make the Texans roster, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin and Akeem Hunt could all be competing for one final roster spot.
Unfortunately, injuries are a big part of today’s NFL and the impact of a major injury, like the Texans were just dealt, can have a major impact on the entire roster.
Hopefully, the two-time and defending AFC South champions will be able to overcome Will Fuller’s absence and make the right decisions on how to proceed heading into the 2017 NFL season.
© 2017 USATODAY.COM