WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The Houston Texans' passing game was the offense’s weakness last season, and although the team has more confidence in its quarterback play this year, the receiving corps just took a big hit with an injury to 2016 first-round pick Will Fuller.
Fuller broke his collarbone in Wednesday’s practice during a team drill when he jumped to try to catch a pass on the left side and fell on his shoulder. He was checked out immediately and left practice.
In Fuller’s absence, the Texans will look for another receiver to step up alongside DeAndre Hopkins. The top two candidates are 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong and 2016 third-round pick Braxton Miller. The Texans could also move running back Tyler Ervin to wide receiver. He has had a strong training camp, and coach Bill O’Brien said he likes Ervin’s versatility.
Strong is entering his third NFL season and has shown flashes that he can be a good target, but he missed half of last season with an ankle injury. In two seasons, he has 28 catches for 292 yards and three touchdowns.
Miller is entering his second NFL season, but just his third season overall playing wide receiver after making the transition from quarterback before his senior season at Ohio State. He said this week that he spent his offseason focusing on recognizing coverages, and he hopes that will make a difference going into this season.
Both options are unproven, and while Fuller is also entering just his second NFL season, he showed as a rookie that he was capable of being the team's deep threat. His average target last season was 15.5 yards downfield, the fourth longest in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Fuller had a strong start to his rookie season, with games of 107 and 104 receiving yards to open the 2016 campaign. He could not sustain that historic pace, though, finishing the season with 47 catches for 635 yards and two touchdowns, while missing two regular-season games. Although Fuller said he was hoping for more after his fast start, he ended the season ranked fifth among rookies in catches and third in yards.
Earlier this week, Fuller said he was looking forward to putting his “tough” rookie season behind him, and that he was already feeling more comfortable on the field this year.
If all goes as hoped, Fuller will return at some point during the 2017 season. But to begin the season, losing an offensive starter at a position where they don’t have much depth is a problem for Texans quarterback and first-year starter Tom Savage.