During the season, Monday and Tuesday are supposed to be quiet days on the NFL calendar each week, especially this week with NFL teams closing their facilities to try their best to prevent the spread of post-holiday COVID. However, perfectly on brand, the Houston Texans found a way to create some drama on an otherwise quiet NFL calendar day.
It started Monday afternoon with Will Fuller's announcing on Instagram that he had been suspended for six games for violating the league's PED policy, and it ended with cornerback Bradley Roby doing the EXACT SAME THING — exact same doctor, exact same suspension length, exact same excuse — later on Monday night.
The Texans are 4-7, and just lost two of their best players, so it's hard to find winners in any of this, but let's try. Here we go, winners and losers in Texans 2020 PED-gate!
4. The Texans' 2021 salary cap
It's wild what people's immediate reaction is to news like Fuller getting suspended. Maybe it's a sign that fans are more savvy about roster contraction and salary cap management in 2020, maybe it's a latent desire to keep Fuller around by any means necessary, but the primary reaction to the Fuller news from Texan fans was "WOW, this should make Fuller much cheaper to bring back in free agency in 2021!" I'm sure that the reaction would have been far different if the Texans were, say, 7-4 and not 4-7, but it's good that people are not totally out on Fuller, who still has great value as a primary target for Deshaun Watson going forward.
3. Keke Coutee
How crazy is it that a month ago Coutee couldn't get on the field? Like he wasn't even active on game days. To be clear, he probably SHOULD have been, because DeAndre Carter (since been waived) was not good, but nevertheless, he was relegated to the bench. Now, here we are, in Week 13, and with Fuller suspended, Randall Cobb to injured reserve, and Kenny Stills being released, Coutee is all of a sudden the No. 2 receiver on this team. If the third year wide receiver doesn't take advantage of THIS opportunity, then it's never gonna happen for him.
2. John Reid
Reid is the "Coutee" of the defensive side of the ball. The rookie cornerback out of Penn State was continually lauded by the coaching staff during training camp for being the rookie that was the most advanced in his draft class. Then, the regular season rolled around, and he could only get on the field for a few special teams snaps every game. With the cornerback crew down to Vernon Hargreaves and Phillip Gaines as the starters — GULP! — Anthony Weaver will have no choice but to get Reid on the field and see what the rookie can do. Opportunity is knocking everywhere! (Side bar — I am gonna be SO DRUNK these final five games of the year.)
1. Texans' coordinators
I know some of you may be wondering "Why the hell would OC Tim Kelly and DC Anthony Weaver be on your winners list, Sean? They just lost one of the three best players on their respective side of the ball!" Yes, that is true, faithful reader, but hear me out. This is a lost season, and my guess is most Texan fans are ambivalent toward both guys right now anyway. Around the league, potential future employers for each probably feel the same. There isn't anything they can do that will DEVALUE their stock around the league. If anything, for both, this is a chance to show they can scheme some things up without two of their best players. This is a free roll for both guys!
4. Will Fuller, and anyone who is tied to his income
It's impossible to overstate what a financial gaffe this was by Fuller. Of course, if Fuller was knowingly taking something that was going to keep his soft tissue and hamstrings healthier (and the fact that Roby, who missed six games with hamstring issues last season, was pinched for the same drug does add to credibility along those lines), then it's more of a lost wager than a mistake. Regardless, Fuller was on pace for over 1,300 yards receiving and double digit touchdowns. In other words, he was on pace for DeANDRE HOPKINS TYPE NUMBERS. His injury history would probably have prevented a near market setting deal, but some team out there was about to get stupid in throwing money at him. Now? Probably not. Fuller cost himself millions, over $3 million in salary this season and then God knows how much in signing bonus and salary for the next four or five years.
3. DeAndre Hopkins' scouting career
After Fuller's second touchdown of the game last Thursday against the Lions, the scintillating flea flicker that gave the Texans a 41-17 lead, DeAndre Hopkins tweeted this about his former teammate Fuller:
Yeah, not yet, D-Hop. Not yet.
2. Deshaun Watson
This whole season has been one gigantic "amped up degree of difficulty" exam for Deshaun Watson, and unlike his teammates, he has passed his exams with flying colors. This, despite having his best receiver traded to the Cardinals for a second round pick and a glacially slow running back. These next five games will be an even bigger test for Watson, who now has Brandin Cooks and... well, pretty much Brandin Cooks at wide receiver. Even when Hopkins was here, Fuller's presence was a game changer for Watson. Check these numbers:
Deshaun Watson’s total EPA splits with Will Fuller on/off the field (includes postseason):— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) June 16, 2020
On: 76.0 EPA, 408 dropbacks
Off: -0.5 EPA, 325 dropbacks
On: 48.5 EPA, 249 dropbacks
Off: 27.8 EPA, 483 dropbacks
On: 38.0 EPA, 142 dropbacks
Off: 11.2 EPA, 125 dropbacks
Time to go earn that $40 million per year, Deshaun (as if he hasn't already done that).
1. Bill O'Brien
I put him here just because. In the end, this whole mess this season is his art project, and it continues to crumble and unravel at the seams, held together by the glue that is Deshaun Watson. O'Brien may as well have jammed the syringe in Fuller's and Roby's asses, in my mind. O'Brien should come with a warning label pasted across his chest for any NFL team thinking of hiring him going forward.
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