Houston Texans Training Camp Preview: Receivers Breakdown

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 07: Andre Johnson #80 of the Houston Texans celebrates with fans after he scored a 40-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals during their 2012 AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Reliant Stadium on January 7, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)

Is anyone on the roster capable of replacing Andre Johnson if he misses more time?

The wide receiver position, specifically the second/third receiver spots behind Andre Johnson, was the most talked about position not only during the season, but also leading up to the NFL draft. This isn't a new issue, but it was put on the front burner last season when Andre Johnson suffered two separate hamstring injuries that caused him to miss nine regular season games. Since drafting Andre Johnson third overall in 2003, the highest the Texans have drafted a wide receiver have been in the third round with Jacoby Jones in 2007, and fourth round with Jerome Mathis in 2005. In fact, the Texans didn't draft any receiver at all in 2008, 2009, and 2011, and not until the 7th round in 2004 and 2006.

The Texans obviously haven't put much of a priority on the position since drafting the ex-Hurricane star, so it should come as no surprise that they suffered from a lack of depth. However, in the Texans offense the second and especially the third receiver spots just aren't as important as they are in other systems like in New England or Green Bay. For the Texans, they use their tight ends and running backs as receiving targets more often then the second and third receivers. Now, if the talent at those positions were improved over Kevin Walter and a couple rookies might they target them more? Possibly, but this scheme isn't dependent on having great players at those spots. Walter has lost a step, but the Texans covet his toughness over the middle and his ability as a blocker. All this being said, if Andre Johnson is attacked by the turf monster again and goes down like he's been shot by a sniper, the Texans will be in big trouble because they don't have any other receiver who has a quarter of his talent.

Andre Johnson - No. 80 will have his number retired the day he takes off the uniform and has a good chance at making the Hall of Fame if he can stay healthy for the next several years. Over his nine NFL seasons Johnson has totaled 706 receptions (34th all-time), 9,656 yards (39th all-time), and 52 touchdowns. If Johnson stays healthy and has his average season of about 85 receptions and 1,100 yards he'll move up to 29th in yards and 25th in receptions. Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald have passed him by as the best receivers in the league, but if he stays healthy he's still the third best receiver in the league in my opinion. He's the prototype for the modern receiver with plus size, speed, hands, and the willingness to go over the middle. A great player and arguably the season hangs on his health status more than any other.

Kevin Walter - The nine year veteran has lost a step, but has had a couple of good seasons as the second receiver in this offense. Walter averaged 62 catches, 850 yards, and 6 touchdowns during the 2007 and 2008 seasons but injuries and father time have slowed him down a bit. I'm not expecting much from Walter this season, he still has a role on this team but his skills dictate that it should be diminished. Over the last four seasons his yards per game have gone down each year; the Texans need to find his replacement.

DeVier Posey - The ex-Buckeye has the size and potential to be a steal in the third round, but I have serious doubts that he'll ever reach that potential. Those doubts are largely based on off-the-field issues that got him suspended twice while at Ohio State. On the field the biggest knocks on him are his inability to get off the line against physical corners and the tendency to look for the safety about to hit him instead of the pass when running a route over the middle of the field. During his sophomore and junior seasons at Ohio State (the two seasons he started and wasn't suspended), Posey averaged 56 catches, 838 yards, and 7 touchdowns. I thought it was a reach when the Texans drafted him in the third round, but he does have second receiver type upside.

Keshawn Martin - Despite being drafted a round later, I think Martin will be the better player of the receivers they drafted. Martin is quick off the line, very athletic, and has the ability to take a short pass to the house. Another plus to Martin is that he has excellent return skills giving him extra value. His downside, he's not a great blocker and like Posey isn't great when going across the middle. Martin should be a very good slot receiver, but unless he improves his blocking will never be a starter for Houston.

Owen Daniels - The 2008 pro-bowler will turn 30 this season and has struggled to stay healthy since that Pro-Bowl season. The Texans desperately need Daniels to stay healthy this year; he's missed 14 games over the last three seasons. With the health concerns of Andre Johnson and the departure of Joel Dreessen in free agency, there will be a larger burden on the shoulders of Daniels this season. The Texans will need Daniels to take his game up another level to help pick up the slack; he has to score more than the 2.5 touchdowns he's averaged over the last two seasons.

LeStar Jean - After not being recruited out of high school, Jean put up big numbers at FAU. Jean looked really good early on in the pre-season last year but got injured and was put on the injured reserve on August 30th. The second year player has the size the Texans look for and seems to have a good amount of potential, but it's all a guess at this stage. He's no lock to make the roster, but I think he could be the Texans third receiver this season.

For more on the Texans, check out the Battle Red Blog!

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