Will Fuller

Will Fuller Undergoes Surgery

A key component in the Texans’ offense, Will Fuller again struggled to stay healthy this season. Houston’s No. 2 wide receiver missed five regular-season games and the team’s first-round playoff contest.

Fuller took a big step toward a full recovery recently, undergoing sports hernia surgery to repair the groin issues he dealt with this season, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets.

The Texans’ top deep threat aggravated the injury in the divisional-round loss to the Chiefs. Fuller has yet to play a full season, coming closest in a 14-game rookie campaign. This will mark another offseason of rehab for the former first-round pick. He spent the 2019 offseason rehabbing an ACL tear he sustained in 2018. Fuller dealt with hamstring and groin injuries this season, with the latter malady shelving him for Houston’s wild-card game.

The Notre Dame alum is going into his fifth-year option season. He’s on the Texans’ books for $10.16MM. The 2020 campaign will be critical for the former first-round pick. He will need to show he can stay healthy in order to command a lucrative extension or a long-term free agent deal as a 2021 free agent.

Deshaun Watson‘s regular-season QBR was more than 15 points higher with Fuller on the field than when he was sidelined. Despite the five-game absence, the 25-year-old wideout totaled a career-high 670 receiving yards. The Texans have Fuller, DeAndre Hopkins and Kenny Stills under contract going into next season. Fuller and Stills, however, are entering contract years. Thanks to the Stills trade and Fuller’s salary spike, the Texans’ receiver trio is set to comprise more than $31MM on the team’s 2020 payroll.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Fuller, Jackson, Addae, Akins

By now it’s no secret that the Texans offense is a different animal when wide receiver Will Fuller is on the field. Without their deep threat, Houston managed to squeak by the Bills in the Wild Card Round, but going up against the Chiefs on Sunday, the team is very happy to expect Fuller to return from his groin injury, according to James Palmer of the NFL Network. Fuller missed time during the regular season with a hamstring injury and only appeared in 11 of the teams games. In those 11 contests, Fuller amassed 49 receptions for 670 yards and three touchdowns.

Here are a couple other injury notes for Sunday’s games:

  • The Packers have added cornerback Josh Jackson to the injury report with an illness, according to Ian Rapaport of the NFL Network. While it is not expected to prevent Jackson from taking the field, it very well could limit him from playing to the top of his talents.
  • Texans safety Jahleel Addae and tight end Jordan Akins did not travel with the team to Kansas City and will not play Sunday against the Chiefs, according to James Palmer of the NFL Network. Neither Addae nor Akins are massive contributors for Houston, but both have been solid role players for the team. Addae compiled 41 tackles and two interceptions, while Akins started 9 games and caught 36 passes for 418 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Injury Notes: Ingram, 49ers, Thielen, Fuller

With every team booked into divisional-round action having now begun practice, here is the latest from the injury front going into Round 2. We’ll start with a midweek Vikings setback:

  • Stefon Diggs has missed two Vikings practices because of illness this week, but Mike Zimmer expects him to suit up in San Francisco. However, Adam Thielen suffered an ankle injury at practice and was limited on Wednesday as a result. Thielen was not on Minnesota’s Tuesday injury report. The Pro Bowl wideout missed much of this season with a hamstring injury. He caught seven passes for a game-high 129 yards against the Saints.
  • The NFL’s other purple-wearing team will likely go into its second-round game with backfield uncertainty. Previously expected to return for the Ravens‘ playoff opener, Mark Ingram has missed both Ravens practices this week. Ingram experienced a setback with his injured calf last week, leading to the Ravens to shut him down for a bit, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link). The Ravens are indicating there is a “realistic chance” Ingram plays. Baltimore backup Gus Edwards‘ 5.2 yards per carry ranked third in the NFL this season.
  • 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander has been cleared for game action, per Rapoport (video link), meaning it’s now Kyle Shanahan‘s call on whether to redeploy the high-priced defender Saturday. The 49ers used their second IR-return spot on Alexander, who is attempting to return from a midseason pectoral tear, but have not activated him yet.
  • Winding down an oft-injured season, Dee Ford is back at 49ers practice and appears ready to return at a key juncture. The veteran defensive end has dealt with a few maladies, his most recent being a hamstring issue that he aggravated in December. Ford’s gone through limited practices the past two days.
  • One of the NFL’s most important No. 2 wideouts, Will Fuller is trending in the right direction for the Texans‘ divisional-round rematch in Kansas City. The Texans expect their deep threat to return against the Chiefs, Rapoport tweets. Fuller was limited Wednesday. Deshaun Watson‘s QBR figure is 16 points higher when Fuller is on the field compared to when he’s not. The injury-prone wideout missed six games this season, the latest because of the groin injury he sustained in December.
  • Among the healthiest of the divisional-round teams, the Packers will have their right tackle back in the mix. Bryan Bulaga suffered a concussion in Week 17 but passed the protocol Wednesday, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes. Kenny Clark, however, missed practice with a back injury. The contract-year defensive lineman played all 16 Packer games this season.

Texans Notes: Fuller, Watt, Anger

The Texans will be without a major offensive weapon when they open the playoffs against the Bills this afternoon. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter) that wideout Will Fuller will not play today as he continues to recover from his groin injury.

Fuller suffered the injury during Houston’s Week 16 victory over the Buccaneers. There was some optimism that the 25-year-old would be ready to return for the playoffs, but the groin injury will sideline him for at least another week. The former first-rounder finished the 2019 regular season with a career-high 49 receptions for 670 yards and three touchdowns.

With Fuller out of the lineup, Wilson suggests that receiver Keke Coutee will be active for today’s game.

Let’s check out some more notes out of Houston…

  • While the Fuller absence will certainly hurt, the Texans can at least look forward to J.J. Watt‘s return to the lineup. The veteran played in the Texans’ first eight games before suffering a torn pectoral muscle. While the risk of re-injury does exist, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport says the team isn’t planning on using the pass rusher situationally (Twitter link). Rather, the team is expected to “unleash him” instead of hold him back.
  • The Texans extended punter Bryan Anger last week, and Wilson has the details on the new deal (Twitter link). The three-year, $7.5MM contract includes $2MM guaranteed and a $1.25MM signing bonus. Anger will have a cap number of $2.312MM in 2020 and $2.812MM in 2021 and 2022. His base salary peaks at $2.5MM.
  • Anger wasn’t the only Texans player to ink an extension last week. In case you missed it, Whitney Mercilus signed a four-year deal with Houston.

Texans’ Will Fuller To Miss Time

Texans wide receiver Will Fuller will miss the team’s regular season finale against the Titans with a groin injury, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). On the plus side, he has an outside chance to play in their first playoff game and will likely be available if they win and advance to the next round. 

Fuller went down in Saturday’s game against the Bucs, though the Texans went on to win 23-20. Fuller has already missed time this year thanks to a hamstring injury and he’s no stranger to the injury bug as a pro. The speedster has yet to play a full season since entering the league in 2016.

Without Fuller, the Texans are expected to lean on DeAndre Hopkins as well as Kenny Stills and DeAndre Carter, who reeled in a clutch 39-yard catch following Fuller’s exit. Keke Coutee, who has been a healthy scratch in recent weeks, is expected to be active for the final game.

Fuller’s regular season will end with 49 catches for 670 yards and three touchdowns through eleven games. He’ll now shift his focus to adding to his playoff totals. In his two playoff games in 2016, Fuller logged seven receptions for 53 yards.

The 25-year-old (26 in April) will return to the Texans next year on his $10.2MM fifth-year option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Activate TE Jordan Thomas From IR

The Texans will have an additional tight end option beginning Thursday night. They activated Jordan Thomas off IR.

A second-year player acquired in the 2018 sixth round, Thomas has spent the entire regular season on IR. Thomas, who saw a cracked rib delay his sophomore NFL season, returned to practice last week.

The Mississippi State product started 10 games last season and played in 16. He caught 20 passes for 215 yards and scored four touchdowns as a rookie. Houston has seen Darren Fells deliver as a red zone option this season; his six receiving TDs already match the Texans’ single-season record. Adding Thomas to this mix stands to help Deshaun Watson, who will also get Will Fuller back tonight.

The Texans also promoted safety Jonathan Owens from their practice squad. Justin Reid and Mike Adams are out tonight, leaving Houston shorthanded on its back line. Houston waived defensive end Joel Heath and wideout Steven Mitchell to clear the necessary roster space.

WR Notes: Hilton, Fuller, Rams, Brown

Hours ahead of a key matchup featuring questions for both teams’ pass-catching situations, let’s take a look at some wide receiver news from around the league:

  • T.Y. Hilton believes he will be given the green light to play in Thursday night’s Colts-Texans game, per James Palmer of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Colts do not have an issue with Hilton playing despite not practicing this week. Indianapolis’ top skill-position talent has missed the past three games with a calf injury. Hilton has dominated during recent games in Houston. In two games there last season, he combined for 14 receptions for 284 yards.
  • Will Fuller will return to action for the Texans tonight, Bill O’Brien said (via ESPN.com’s Ed Werder, on Twitter). Fuller has also missed the past three games, with the Texans deep threat’s absence due to a pulled hamstring.
  • The Rams look set to have their top three receivers back in action Monday. After Sean McVay expressed optimism Brandin Cooks will play against the Ravens, Robert Woods returned to the team on Thursday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Woods missed the Rams’ Week 11 game due to a personal matter, leaving Cooper Kupp as Los Angeles’ only starting wideout to play in what became a run-oriented game.
  • Antonio Brown‘s countersuit against accuser Britney Taylor centers on a confidentiality agreement the receiver claims to have signed under duress, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. The free agent wideout claims that during her meeting with the NFL, Taylor refused to waive the agreement — one the twice-released player contends would shed more light on his case against Taylor. Brown’s former acquaintance accused him of sexual assault. A statement from Taylor’s attorney (via Florio) indicates Brown is trying to blame the first of his two accusers for his 2019 actions and that Taylor “will not be bullied.”

South Notes: Fuller, Quinn, Leftwich

The Texans are hopeful that wide receiver Will Fuller will be able to retake the field next week in Baltimore against the Ravens, according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle. Fuller has missed the team’s previous two games after suffering a hamstring injury against the Colts.

Fuller is one of the best deep threats in football, especially when he takes the field opposite of all-pro DeAndre Hopkins. Prior to his injury, Fuller was on pace to eclipse 70 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. Those marks may be unattainable now, but at 6-3, the Texans are in the thick of the AFC playoff picture coming out of their bye. Fuller would surely aid them in their pursuit of a Super Bowl title.

Here’s more from the NFC and AFC South:

  • Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has been firmly on the hot-seat for many weeks. However, after a dominating victory over the Saints on Sunday, Quinn has bought himself at least a temporary reprieve, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Just a few seasons away from a Super Bowl appearance, this year has fallen far short of expectations, especially on defense. However, New Orleans potent offense looked overwhelmed for much of the game.
  • After a 30-27 victory in a shootout against the Cardinals, the Buccaneers offense continues to produce in spit of Jameis Winston‘s propensity for turnovers. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich deserves a large amount of credit as the playcaller, however, he almost never got the responsibilities in the first place. In the offseason, head coach Bruce Arians had to convince ownership that someone other than him should call plays, according to Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times.

Extra Points: Chiefs, Gase, Matthews, Texans

The Chiefs announced today that they signed team president Mark Donovan to a long-term extension.

“I’d like to congratulate Mark and his family on this well-deserved recognition,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “Because of Mark’s leadership over the past decade, the business operations of the Chiefs are among the best in professional sports, and he and his team have worked tirelessly to create the best fan experience in the National Football League. Mark is an innovative leader and a talented executive who is widely respected in our industry and in the Kansas City community. I am thrilled that he will continue to be a key part of the leadership of the Chiefs for many years to come.”

Donovan joined the organization as their COO back in 2009, and he earned the promotion to his current role in 2011. The press release notes that he’s played a major role in helping to “re-establish Arrowhead Stadium as an elite venue for not only sports, but other forms of entertainment.” Donovan started working for the NFL back in 1999, and he’s also spent time with the Eagles organization.

Here are more NFL notes as we wrap up this Tuesday night:

  • Bill O’Brien said wide receiver Will Fuller is progressing from his hamstring injury (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter). The wideout hasn’t played since suffering the injury during the Texans‘ Week 7 loss to the Colts. Meanwhile, Keke Coutee‘s absence shouldn’t be attributed to injury; O’Brien said the wideout hasn’t played due to his lack of “attention to detail” (via Wilson). The head coach made it clear that it wasn’t an effort issue, noting that the former fourth-rounder is a “great guy.”
  • The Jets fell to 1-7 after losing to the rebuilding Dolphins, meaning Adam Gase has naturally found himself on the hot seat. However, the head coach told reporters that he isn’t focused on his job security. “It’s just something that I don’t really focus on,” Gase said (via Brian Costello of the New York Post). “My job is to try to get the team prepared every week, get them ready to go, get them focused on the game that we have to play. One and seven is not fun to go through. Things haven’t gone the way that we wanted to. It’s just that’s what happens in the NFL sometimes and unfortunately, we’re going through it right now.” Gase joined the organization back in January on a four-year contract that’s rumored to be worth upwards of $20MM.
  • It was barely a month ago that Clay Matthews broke his jaw, but the Rams linebacker is set to return to practice. Coach Sean McVay told reporters that the veteran will return to the practice field this week, and the coaching staff will evaluate his progress as they determine his availability for this weekend. “Everything’s checked out in a positive manner up to this point, so I think it’s just kind of progressing back to, ‘How comfortable do you feel putting a helmet on?’” McVay told the team’s website. “Some of the collisions that naturally would occur and just kind of trusting that you’re nice and secure in that absence of some of that stuff that kind of kept it in place and helped it heal over the last couple weeks.” Matthews has six sacks in five games with his new squad.
  • Long snapper Kevin McDermott underwent elbow surgery back in August, and the free agent has been cleared by doctors to resume snapping, tweets NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero. The 29-year-old had spent the previous four seasons with the Vikings before getting cut by the team this past August. The UCLA product has appeared in 86 career games.

Texans Work Out Eli Rogers

The Texans are working out wide receiver Eli Rogers, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

One of Houston’s starting wideouts, Will Fuller, left Sunday’s loss to the Colts with a hamstring injury. In a separate report today, Rapoport described the injury as a “rather significant hamstring pull” that is expected to keep Fuller off the field for “several weeks.”

While star DeAndre Hopkins is the undisputed top receiver in Houston, Fuller has been a valuable second option for quarterback Deshaun Watson. Thus far in 2019, Fuller had already amassed 34 receptions for 450 yards and three touchdowns. However, injuries have been a consistent part of the 2016 first-round pick’s career thus far.

Rogers may be the most proven receiver on the free-agent market aside from Antonio Brown. Coincidentally, Rogers also made his name with the Steelers. Pittsburgh signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Louisville in 2016. As a rookie, Rogers started half of the team’s games and made 48 receptions for 594 yards and three touchdowns.

His role faded in 2017 as JuJu Smith-Schuster began emerging opposite of Brown. Then in the playoffs, Rogers tore his ACL and missed almost the entirety of the 2018 season. Unable to reassert himself into Pittsburgh’s rotation, the organization released him in their final roster cuts prior to this season.

He has already had workouts with the Buccaneers and Dolphins, but has yet to sign a contract. Given the significance of Fuller’s role in Houston, a newcomer will not be expected to step into the starting lineup. But, someone with experience, like Rogers, could help make up for the loss.