HOUSTON — Led by DeAndre Hopkins, Houston's young receivers have been good all year.
They will need to be even better on Sunday at Indianapolis if star receiver Andre Johnson can't play. Johnson suffered a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit last weekend and is listed as day to day this week.
Hopkins, who was a first-round pick last season, has finally given Houston a big-play threat to play opposite Johnson that the team has lacked for years. Hopkins was solid as a rookie, but has blossomed in his second season and leads the team and is fifth in the AFC with 1,090 yards receiving.
"Since day one, they've really put in the work and the effort," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "I think specifically DeAndre is a young receiver that's really improved from year one to year two. He's done a great job and the exciting thing about him is he can get a lot better. I think he knows that."
Hopkins has been helped by the Johnson, who has taken the 22-year-old under his wing since he arrived in Houston. The 33-year-old Johnson taught him as much about life off the field as he has about what he needs to do on it.
"Coming in last year, he told me that this isn't college. You have to take care of your body and do the things off the field to be able to come out and have a productive day of practice," Hopkins said. "I kind of took that for granted last year a little bit, but this year I'm doing kind of his routine. I want to follow Andre. What he's doing is working so why not?"
He's had four games with more than 100 yards receiving this season, highlighted by a career-high 238 yards receiving two weeks ago.
Hopkins has become more of a student of the game in his second season and thinks that's another reason for his improvement. He has a knack for long receptions and is tied for fourth in the NFL with 19 catches for 20 yards or more and he has six of 40 yards or longer.
"My knowledge of knowing defensive coverages before the play is snapped or before the play starts (has improved)," he said. "Just being able to scan the defense and knowing what coverage they're in, you kind of know where to sit down in zones and just be able to read man or zone. That's a big thing with this offense; you have to have knowledge of the game."
Another young receiver who's helped the Texans this season is Damaris Johnson, a third-year player in his first season in Houston. He has 22 receptions for 250 yards and a touchdown and could see more action this week if Johnson can't go.
The Texans could also use Keshawn Martin to pick up the slack if Johnson's out. He's Houston's punt returner, but has seen very limited action on offense this year and has just six receptions for 78 yards. Another option is DeVier Posey, who has been inactive for each game this season after playing in 14 last year.
Coach Bill O'Brien said Posey has been working hard in practice and he's confident that he will do well if they need him on Sunday.
Houston has been working to get its tight ends more involved in the offense with the three of them combining for just 260 yards receiving so far. The group is led by Garrett Graham, who has 18 receptions for 197 yards, but missed last week's game with an ankle injury. He is also listed as day to day for Sunday's game.
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