Houston Texans: Taking a closer look at the offensive depth chart

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in huddle (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in huddle (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /
3 of 6
Houston Texans
Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Wide Receiver

Oof, the awkward one. Kind of similar to when politics is mentioned at the dinner table. It can either get really quiet or really loud and sometimes it’s best to just avoid politics at the dinner table.

But if the offense is being discussed, the wide receiver spot is pretty fundamental, to say the least, so here I go.

For the first time since when the Houston Texans drafted Andre Johnson, the Texans are heading into the NFL season without a solidified number 1 option on the receiver depth chart. Normally I would say that we are in trouble at this point, but since the Houston Texans have been in the league for nearly 20 years without a ring, maybe a different approach can be better. No promises, however.

The Houston Texans shocked the NFL world when they shipped out DeAndre Hopkins, and rather than going into next season with a top WR and some sidekicks, they decided to even out the attack and put a bunch of track stars as the Texans’ WR group. Rather than having a defense focused on the main target, the Texans are deciding to try and force defenses to treat all WR’s with the same skill level, and only time will tell if this decision is for the better.

This leads to my third theory on why Watson holds the ball a little longer. If this theory holds true, then maybe in some ironic and sick way, shipping Hopkins would be for the better. Don’t get that sentence twisted, however, as I still believe that the relationship between Hopkins and Watson should’ve never been broken and the Hopkins trade was nothing short of a disaster. Forgive me for trying to put a good spin on an ugly situation.

The third theory would be that Watson stares down at Hopkins and waits to get the ball to him in certain moments since he would probably be the primary receiver in the majority of the passing plays. This would once again cause the offense to work harder and increase the chances of injury/sack/hit, along with tiring the offense out. Not only that, but it may be possible that Watson has missed open receivers in the past or failed to see them because he was trying to get the ball to Hopkins.

Increasing the variety of primary receivers by evening the attack may open up Watson’s mindset in the pocket and help him get the ball out quicker with all receivers having similar skills. Since there isn’t necessarily a top option, he will be looking at “the other” receivers more often than usual, and it may prove to be effective. Again, only take this for a grain of salt, as this is just a theory.

The Houston Texans WR group has increased in speed with the signing of Randall Cobb, the expected slot receiver, trading for Brandin Cooks, drafting Isaiah Coulter, along with keeping Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, Kenny Stills and the other guys who will play snaps here and there.

If this were four years ago, I would be very excited about this offensive group just like anybody else. But this is four years later, which is entirely different.

To start off, I think Fuller is extremely underrated. I am not just saying this because the offense was significantly better when Fuller was on the field last year versus when he wasn’t, and yes I understand his injury history is an issue. But this dude can catch. He may not be Hopkins level, but he has made some damn impressive catches that are somewhat near Hopkins caliber.

Here is a reminding highlight reel, and if I were to recommend a highlight, it would be at one minute and 31 seconds into the video. Yes, I understand that he likely won’t be as open as he originally was with Hopkins no longer being on the offense, and it’s likely he is going to miss a game here and there, but he isn’t talked about enough. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Randall Cobb is the slot receiver that Bill O’Brien has been missing for a long time. There have been past players in this position that didn’t work out as well like Braxton Miller or Jaelen Strong, and even though Kenny Stills played decently at this spot last year, Randall Cobb has proven success in this position and he will be a great help for Watson with Hopkins’ departure.

He had a solid year last year with the Dallas Cowboys, and it’s interesting to note that the opportunity to play with Watson drew him away from the opportunity to play under Mike McCarthy again since the cheese-head days. I would’ve been A LOT more excited if Hopkins was still on the squad, such a shame.

Cooks is a quick WR who showed success playing with Tom Brady in a Patriots uniform along with Drew Brees for the Saints. However, he had a drop-off with the Rams last season, and though this may be due to Jared Goff’s struggle at downfield throws, it is still a noticeable drop. Though Cooks only has missed a few games in the past few years, his concussion injuries are frequent, and the last thing this team needs is for him to get concussions as often as Hoyer did in a Texan uniform.

Stills had some solid catches last year, and I don’t mind him on the roster. There have been plenty of trade rumors on Stills since the Texans have three solid WRs, but I think it’s a bad idea to trade him considering the injury history of the three wide receivers ahead of him. It’s best, in my opinion, for the team to keep him for injury assurance and to give the other receivers a snap off here and there in my opinion.

Coutee may not see the field as much with all of the new WRs, but he is still on the roster and has shown potential. However, he is rumored to have beef with O’Brien and his health is inconsistent. Steven Mitchell Jr. will make a catch here and there, and I have heard plenty of praise about rookie Isaiah Coulter.

He was drafted in the 5th round in the NFL draft, and while his role on the team in the upcoming season is unclear, some rookies work their way up the roster pretty quickly. I’d recommend keeping eyes on him.

If there is anything to take from all this about the WRs, it would be that the Houston Texans were never intending to replace Hopkins. They decided to forgo the idea of a solid No. 1 WR and spread the wealth around. The potential is definitely there, but if it doesn’t come to show, then we all know who to blame. *Hint,* his name rhymes with Will O’Wrien.