Replacing DeAndre Hopkins' production could come down to this for Texans
It's no secret that all eyes will be on the Texans offense when they open the season up in Kansas City on a Thursday night in less than three weeks. The controversial decision to trade All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona has been a talking point all offseason and rightfully so.
Without Hopkins as the clear cut #1 target on the team, quarterback Deshaun Watson is going to have to throw to a new group of receivers in the offense that include Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb. Replacing Hopkins' 2019 stat line of over 100 catches, 1,100 yards, and 7 touchdowns will not be easy but what if another unit on offense takes a big step forward to help the other receivers make up for Hopkins' production?
The tight end group for Houston might be the most underrated unit on the team. The team elected to bring back Darren Fells on a two-year contract after the 6-7 270 pound athlete excelled last year in the red zone. Fells' 7 touchdowns matched Hopkins for the team lead.
"Here's a guy that didn't even play college football. He was a basketball player," said Texans Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien. "Really a guy that is just a really mature, good person who cares about winning, who cares about being a good teammate. He really works hard to improve. We do a lot of things with the tight ends and he came into our system last year and he really learns well. He was able to produce. Deshaun (Watson) has a lot of confidence in him in the passing game."
In addition to Fells, the Texans' tight end room also boasts Jordan Atkins. Atkins, entering his 3rd season in the league after being drafted in the 3rd round in 2018, should be able to continue his development and improve on his 36 catches for 418 yards and 2 touchdowns. His coach is expecting a big jump.
"Jordan Akins had a really good day yesterday," said O'Brien. "With Jordan, it's all about consistency and just being consistent. He's a great guy. A really talented guy."
Rounding out the room includes 2018 6th round pick Jordan Thomas and 2019 3rd round pick Kahle Warring. After missing the entire 2019 season with an injury, Warring is essentially going through his rookie season in 2020 according to O'Brien.
"Kahale is a good, young player. He's very talented." O'Brien said. "He's dealt with some injuries early on in his career. He works really hard. He's a good, good kid. I see a good future for him. He's just got to keep working. He's got to keep working and gain experience. He hasn't played a lot of football in his life. He's learning the pro game and he works hard. He's a really good guy to work with."
The Texans offense will be predicated on Deshaun Watson continuing to ascend in his 4th season under center but if the tight end room takes another leap forward that could make all the difference in the win/loss column on gamedays.
"It's a big group that each one of those guys definitely can do a lot of different things," O'Brien said about his tight end room. "They're all very dynamic and can make big plays. They can help this team, help especially this offense, take it to a whole 'nother level."
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