Bill O'Brien Wants Texans' Offense To Spread Ball Around

Brandon Scott
May 06, 2020 - 1:26 pm

(SportsRadio 610) -- Texans fans are still upset about the DeAndre Hopkins trade, even if tired of discussing it. 

Bill O'Brien has defended the move as one in the best interest of the team, because Hopkins ultimately wanted a new contract the Texans would not pay.

There is obviously more to the story, but what is done is done. 

For what it's worth, O'Brien has bolstered the offensive weaponry with immense potential.

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks was traded from the Rams to the Texans about a month after Hopkins was dealt out of Houston. Randall Cobb signed as a free agent (for a curious $9 million a year) the day Hopkins' trade was announced.

Running back David Johnson is one of the key cogs in the Hopkins deal. His ability to pose threats as a receiver and runner out of the back field will offer the Texans something they did not have last season with Carlos Hyde as the starting back.

This seems to be more of what O'Brien is looking for from his offense, which will be led in 2020 by first-year play caller Tim Kelly.

O'Brien wants to spread the ball around, as opposed to keying in on Hopkins the way the Texans have in previous years. 

Hopkins was targeted more than twice as much as No. 2 receiver Will Fuller last season (150 targets compared to 71 targets), according to Pro Football Reference.

Whether that approach is a good one still has to play out.

"Really, our offense, the philosophy is to spread the ball around," O'Brien told former Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest earlier this week on NFL Total Access. "Obviously, throw it to the guy who is open. Run the football. Be balanced. We've got a great young quarterback in Deshaun Watson. Our football team's excited about where we are right now."

Cooks and Johnson both had down years in 2019 for their respective teams.

Cooks spoke last month about not viewing himself as a Hopkins replacement, but a veteran who adds speed to the offense and leadership to the team. 

The Texans need him to return to his 2018 form ease the sports trauma from Hopkins' departure. 

Cooks missed two games due to suffering a pair of concussions within a one-month span. He saw his production dip to a career-low 42 passes and two touchdown catches, as opposed to averaging 77 catches for 1,149 yards and seven touchdowns the previous four seasons. 

Johnson will play with something to prove in 2020 after being rotated out of the mix for the Cardinals in Kliff Kingsbury's first season as head coach.

Johnson, who is the fourth-highest paid running back going into this season, has not been great since 2016, when he last rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He was decent in 2018, but O'Brien is looking for Johnson to be a three-down back as well as an asset in the passing game. 

Cobb caught 55 passes for 828 yards and three touchdowns for the Cowboys. It was by some measures his best season since 2015. Cobb was a Pro Bowler in 2014.

SportsRadio 610 afternoon host Clint Stoerner, a former NFL quarterback, has cited Cobb as someone who could be crucial in Deshaun Watson's development as a quarterback. 

A critique of Watson is he sometimes struggles to make it through his progressions and holds on to the ball for too long when pressure is coming.

Cobb is expected to be the underneath option and safety valve for Watson, with some combination of Cooks, Will Fuller and Kenny Stills out wide.

"In Randall Cobb, you've got a veteran slot receiver that can conversations throughout the week with Deshaun Watson in meetings. That's going to help mature him," Stoerner said. "You've got a veteran slot receiver that in game time is going to help identify blitzes and help execute the game plan against blitzes you've discussed all week long. ...

"Randall Cobb being so important has everything to do with his ability to help Deshaun Watson develop, whether it's in meetings, on the field, being a third option in a progression. Those are things Deshaun Watson has to get better at."

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