The roller-coaster rookie season for Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller has many pondering whether he’s another inconsistent talent or the rightful complementary piece to Pro Bowl wideout DeAndre Hopkins.
A Batman and Robin combination is exactly what the Texans organization had in mind when they spent a first-round draft pick on the speedster receiver out of Notre Dame. But like most movies in the DC universe, the end product has come with mixed results. There are times when Hopkins is being locked up on one side of the field, and Fuller is making defensive backs look silly in one-on-one coverage.
And then there are times when Fuller looks more like Jack Shephard lost on an island than a superhero sidekick. Before leaving the game with a leg injury in the second half of play on Sunday, Fuller was held to only one reception for 23 yards against a Detroit Lions defense that has been generous to receivers all season long.
It was still his best outing in the last three games that he has played in. He has six receptions for 49 yards and no touchdowns in three games.
Injuries have obviously played a significant role in the rapid dip in production, along with elite play from opposing defenses. It’s hard to fault his struggles against the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings since both teams probably have the best defensive units in the NFL right now. Not many rookies in the league are going to thrive offensively against those two teams.
But the three-game stat line for Fuller has been a bit concerning for Texans fans accustomed to seeing hype trains derailed within the blink of an eye. So it is certainly understandable why there may be some skepticism.
However, there really isn’t anything to fear. Barring any prolonged health issues, Fuller will be wearing the red cape fans envisioned in due time.
A big part of his lack of production in recent games is the team’s tendency to only use him for deep passes. His average target passes have traveled roughly 16 yards through the air.
For a player with such explosive play-making abilities, one would think the Texans would try to get creative in getting the ball into his hands, but it has been the same play-calling for the most part — Fuller sprinting downfield and quarterback Brock Osweiler lobbing the deep ball.
Perhaps the team could draw up some reverse runs or screen passes, along with shorter throws down the field, just to get Fuller more involved in the offense. He is one of the fastest receivers in the NFL, and the Texans have made minimal effort to get him the football.
But Fuller does have to improve on hauling in passes. His reputation for dropped passes has followed him from college into the NFL. It’s a focus-related issue that he’ll have to improve upon if he hopes to ever maintain any form of consistency in the offense.
The Texans can still find solace in the fact that he is the second-most productive rookie wide receiver in the NFL behind the New Orleans Saints’ Michael Thomas.
As the team figures out new ways to utilize him in the offense, his confidence should increase along with his production. Every rookie deals with growing pains, and Fuller has been no different. The dynamic duo will soar soon enough.
Just give it some time.