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Texans WR Jaelen Strong looks to put disappointing rookie year behind him

HOUSTON -- Since being drafted by the Houston Texans in the third round in 2015, things have not gone as planned for wide receiver Jaelen Strong.

The former Arizona State standout had a disappointing rookie season, finding himself unable to finish some practices due to poor conditioning. Strong finished last season with 14 catches for 161 yards and three touchdowns in 10 regular-season games.

Then he was arrested in February for possession of marijuana.

Since the arrest, Strong has turned his diet and workouts around and made noticeable improvements. He passed his conditioning test and came to camp in much better shape than he was in a year ago.

But Strong said he did more than just change his body shape.

"Mentally, physically, I changed everything about myself," Strong said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time.

"Looking at the long-term thing, it’s just improving day by day. I’m trying to take the coaching and buy in as quickly as possible."

Head coach Bill O’Brien has noticed.

"He came in, he nailed the conditioning test and did a great job in that," O’Brien said. "He’s been able to really refine his skill set as a receiver. I think he picks out one or two things every single day to get better at. That’s good to see. I think he’s going to be better and better every single day."

Though Strong is only in his second year, he has been a mentor to some of the younger receivers, including first-round pick Will Fuller. The two receivers have known each other for a while since they are both from Philadelphia. Fuller even stayed with Strong when he first got to Houston.

"Just because we have a young receiving corps in general, you have to help as much as possible," Strong said. "Things I may not know, other guys help me. I try to keep everybody else on the same track in the film room. We all hold each other accountable."

The receiver group may be one of the deepest position groups on the Texans’ depth chart. Behind DeAndre Hopkins, who finished third in the league with 111 receptions, Strong and Fuller are battling it out to be quarterback Brock Osweiler’s No. 2 target.

Osweiler was complimentary of both Fuller and Strong after Monday’s practice, praising Strong for more than just his ability to catch the football.

“Jaelen is a competitor, and I love that kid,” Osweiler said. “Obviously, he’s a tall, big, strong, athletic wide receiver that can make plays all over the field.

“I think one thing that Jaelen doesn’t probably get enough credit for is his run-blocking. He runs in, he sticks his nose in there, and he’ll hit linebackers, safeties. To make a great run game go, the receiver-blocking portion of the whole deal is extremely important. Just to see Jaelen buy into that and then at the same time, make plays downfield and in the red [zone] ... I don’t know if you guys saw, but he just caught that last touchdown to finish practice. That’s huge.

"Jaelen is a great football player.”