Texans GM expects 'exponential growth' from young receivers

Unsteady quarterback play ultimately sunk the Houston Texans last season, but it shouldn't go unnoticed that coach Bill O'Brien utilized rookies as his No. 2 and 3 receivers for most of the season.

Behind Pro Bowler DeAndre Hopkins, the first-year tandem of Will Fuller and Braxton Miller played the second and third most snaps for Houston last season, respectively. Each had his own ebbs and flows. Fuller, after a scorching start, struggled with drops and adjusting to how defenses were playing him. Miller was still learning to play receiver after being a quarterback most of his career at Ohio State. Miller then missed the final four games of the season with a shoulder injury.

Texans general manager Rick Smith expects both young receivers to make a leap in Year Two.

"It's a difficult position to play in our league," Smith said, via the Houston Chronicle. "There's a lot of learning. There's a lot of physical demands on that position. The expectation and the progression from a career, there's exponential growth expected from Year One to Year Two.

"And it's because, in a lot of respects, they know pro football a lot better, the rhythm of the season, the demands, everything is just different. It's heightened. To the degree that a guy can come in and process that and play with some success as a rookie, that's good. That next year is when you tend to see that biggest jump."

Pro Football Focus ranked Fuller their No. 91 receiver and Miller No. 113 out of 115 eligible wideouts last season.

While Miller continues to learn the nuances of the position, Fuller, a first-round pick, is the player the Texans need to morph into a consistent threat opposite Hopkins. Fuller's separation ability makes him a danger to defenses on every down, if he can halt the drops and become a steady route runner.

Fuller noted he plans to add weight this offseason to help him more in the second year -- he's listed at 180 pounds.

"I think the most I've ever weighed is probably about 190, and I felt pretty good," Fuller said. "That was around the combine. If I can get to that weight and keep my speed, that would be perfect."

With question marks still looming under center between Tom Savage and rookie Deshaun Watson, whoever wins the job will have a much easier time if both Fuller and Miller live up to Smith's high expectations in their second season.