The Houston Texans revamped offense had fantasy owners excited heading into the 2016 season. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back Lamar Miller were consensus top five selections at their respective positions, and wideout Will Fuller was a top pick among the rookies.
It’s not difficult to determine why that was the case. Hopkins had 111 receptions and 1,521 yards with four different journeyman signal callers last year, so the expectations were even greater with a better quarterback and other offensive weapons for defenses to worry about around him.
And for the first time in his career, Miller would be the feature back in an offense seemingly ready to explode.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way because Texans new starting quarterback Brock Osweiler is killing the fantasy value to be had in the Houston offense.
Through the first three weeks, Osweiler has completed 59.6 percent of his passes and averaged 6.38 yards per attempt. It’s important to note that three games is a small sample size, but the 25-year-old has regressed in both of those categories since last year. He also has three touchdowns versus four interceptions.
His one saving grace through three games is his 5.07 air yards per attempt average, which ranks sixth in the NFL. Really, that just speaks volumes to the aggressive offensive game plan and play-calling Houston coach Bill O’Brien and offensive coordinator Goose Godsey have deployed this season. No team threw it deep more often in the first two weeks of the year.
But the glaring problem is it hasn’t let to a better yards per attempt average, and on Thursday against New England, O’Brien and Godsey seemed to lose a little confidence in Osweiler. Although he attempted eight deep passes according to the records at Pro Football Reference, overall, the play calling was very conservative. Two times on third and long within the first 16 minutes of the game, Houston ran the ball rather than attempting a pass for the first down.
In some ways, one can’t blame the Texans for the lack of trust. Remember, Osweiler has started just 10 games at the NFL level and dating back to last season, he has seven turnovers, including six interceptions, in his last four games. But, it’s clearly going to take more than just deep pass attempts to loose up the opposition’s rushing defense.
Owners can’t complain too much about Miller through three weeks. He is averaging 10.7 fantasy points per week, and he’s been very consistent, recording at least 9.7 points per game. But that’s only because he is also averaging 28 touches per week.
Miller has 269 rushing yards on 74 attempts, which is only good enough for 3.6 yards per carry. Two years ago, Miller was among the leaders in that category, gaining 5.1 yards per rush, but similar to the way defenses play against C.J. Anderson and Denver last year, they just don’t respect Osweiler’s ability to complete passes down the field.
As a result, the opposition is taking away Miller. He has just four rushing plays of at least 10 yards and has been stopped for no gain, a 1-yard run or a loss an incredible 20 times in three games.
Hopkins has turned in two solid fantasy outings due to two scores, but he is having problems keeping up with expectations as well. Against New England’s bracket double coverage, Hopkins had just four catches for 56 yards. This season, he has 16 receptions for 223 yards and two touchdowns.
Currently, Hopkins is on pace for 85 catches and 1,189.3 yards this year. Those are good numbers, but not what owners wanted from a consensus top four fantasy receiver. And it could get worse if the Texans stick with their conservative game plan where they run even on third-and-8 as they did against New England.
Last season, Brian Hoyer averaged 7.1 yards per attempt, which is far superior to Osweiler’s 6.38 yards per pass average. Osweiler ranks 29th in the league in that category out of 33 quarterbacks.
That must improve or defenses aren’t going to respect the Texans passing attack, and until it does, Miller and Hopkins won’t be able to fulfill their lofty fantasy expectations.