With the death of Kobe Bryant dominating the news cycle over the last couple days, and rightfully so, there are still a few nuggets to catch up on from over the weekend. The various wheels are in motion on the NFL offseason, with the Senior Bowl over the weekend and teams preparing for upcoming free agency, but there is also the small matter of broken players getting themselves fixed.
We updated you yesterday on Texans' future Pro Bowl safety Justin Reid and his successful shoulder surgery, but meanwhile there was one more significant bit of Texans convalescence news that flew under the radar, and this one is a big one for the team's 2020 prospects. AS first reported by Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Will Fuller underwent sports hernia surgery over the weekend:
Texans wide receiver Will Fuller underwent sports hernia surgery to repair groin injuries sustained during regular season that he aggravated in playoff loss to Chiefs, according to sources. Expected to make full recovery.— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) January 25, 2020
It wouldn't be a Texans offseason if Will Fuller wasn't getting some part of his anatomy surgically repaired. It's a tradition like no other, really! A few thoughts here on Fuller, his surgery, and what this means for both the player and the team heading toward the 2020 season:
Apparently, Fuller aggravated the injury in the loss to the Chiefs
This was the most interesting tidbit from Aaron Wilson's tweet, that Fuller basically tweaked the groin injury again, which isn't that surprising. So ultimately, if the Texans had been able to hold onto the 24-0 lead they built in the early second quarter of that game, it sounds like we'd have been dealing with the same "Will Fuller, will he or won't he play?" conjecture that we became so used to for most of the 2019 season. Of course, the AFC title game the next week would have been a home game against the Titans, a game in which the Texans would have been favored, even without Fuller. So just know that the Texans loss to the Chiefs deprived us of one more chance to ask Bill O'Brien daily about another man's groin.
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Texans with Fuller, Texans without Fuller
The Texans are a clearly different team with Fuller than without Fuller in the lineup, having gone 8-3 with a healthy Fuller, and just 2-3 without Fuller. (In the playoffs, ironically, they were 1-0 without Fuller and 0-1 with the speedy wide receiver.) The effect of Fuller can be seen in two key stats from the regular season — yards per attempt and third down conversions. With Fuller on the field, Deshaun Watson is averaging 7.78 yards per attempt, and the Texans are converting 51.9 percent of their third downs. Without Fuller, Watson averaged 6.32 yards per attempt and converted just 32.9 percent of third downs.
There is probably zero decision to be made on Fuller's fifth year option now
The Texans contractual situation with Fuller is this — he is set to come back for the fifth year option season of his rookie deal at a salary of $10.1 million. Oftentimes, the Texans would have already negotiated a long term contract for a player like Fuller, that they want to keep, but his injury issues are forcing them to play out the entire rookie deal. Numbers like the ones outlined in the paragraph above are reason enough for the Texans to hang onto Fuller, even with injury concerns. The actual injury itself likely triggers the guarantee for the fifth year option (guaranteed only for injury), so debating whether Fuller will be here in 2020 or not is a dead debate. He will be here, and hopefully, he's been physically repaired.
Let's hope this is the final season of Fuller's unreliable anatomy
It should be pointed out that the injury Fuller had fixed over the weekend is not the same one that kept him out in most of his 2019 absences. For the majority of the season, when Fuller was hurt, it was a hamstring injury that was dogging him. Fuller has been one gigantic injury frustration since joining the team in 2016. For his career, he's played in a total of 42 of a possible 64 games, and in several of those 42 active games, he left early with injuries that would become several-week issues. The one thing I'm hanging the hat of my hope on for 2020 is that, perhaps, Fuller's 2019 issues stemmed from his recovery from an ACL tear in 2018, and the possibility that overcompensation of some sort led to the hamstring injuries, which led to groin injuries. Maybe, if Fuller, can have a full, normal offseason without ACL rehab, then he can finally play that full season we've all been waiting for from him.