The Texans’ win over the Dolphins on Thursday night, which pushed their winning streak to five games and extended their lead in the AFC South, was marred by the knee injury that forced receiver Will Fuller to exit the game. The injury is as bad as the Texans feared.
On Friday, Texans coach Bill O’Brien confirmed the multiple reports that indicated Fuller tore his ACL. Fuller is done for the season.
The Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson first reported that Fuller was believed to have suffered a torn ACL in his right knee. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport later reported that the Texans feared Fuller was done for the season. Both reported that Fuller would undergo an MRI to confirm the extent of the damage. Later on Friday, confirmation arrived.
It’s a tough blow for a team that’s climbed to the top of the AFC South one year after injuries ruined its 2017 season. A year ago, the Texans lost J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Deshaun Watson to season-ending injuries en route to a four-win season. The last game Watson played in was the Texans’ final game of October. The same is true for Fuller. The timing of the injury gives Fuller enough time to potentially be ready for the beginning of next season, though given the severity of the injury, his availability next September shouldn’t be automatically assumed.
Without Fuller, the Texans are losing a deep-ball threat and touchdown machine. Since entering the league in 2016 as a first-round pick, Fuller has caught 107 passes for 1,561 yards and 13 touchdowns in 31 games. His attributes were on full display on Thursday night, when he hauled in five passes for 124 yards and a touchdown during the Texans’ beatdown of the Dolphins.
The Texans still have DeAndre Hopkins, their WR1 and one of the league’s best receivers, but Fuller’s injury will put more pressure on the receivers around Hopkins. On Thursday night, Watson targeted Hopkins and Fuller with 13 of his 20 pass attempts. On the season, the two players have been targeted 123 times (out of 257 total targets).
Rookie Keke Coutee, who missed Thursday night’s game with a hamstring injury, will likely be asked to take on a larger role in the offense. In four games this season, Coutee has totaled 21 receptions, 196 yards, and one touchdown. He’s third on the team in targets with 30.
At 5-3, the Texans have emerged as frontrunners in a tight but lackluster division. They won’t play again until Nov. 4, when they’ll face the Broncos, and then they’ll enjoy their Week 10 bye. That schedule should help Coutee get back to full strength as the Texans prepare for the final stretch of the season, during which they’ll face the Titans, Colts, and Jaguars in games that should shape the division race.
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