For the last couple of years, defensive coordinators have twisted their brains into pretzels trying to figure out a way to slow down Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Slowing him down is the best you can hope for because he clearly can’t be stopped.
The Texans have played knowing they had one of the best deep threats in the NFL, but if there was ever one thing on the wish list, it was for the emergence of at least one more definitive target on the other side of the field — the formation of a deadly one-two punch that would keep defenses on skates.
Now enters Will Fuller.
The rookie first round draft pick has ridiculous breakaway speed that can take the top off defenses. Forget about the Batman and Robin comparisons because Fuller has every opportunity to lead as well. This deadly combination looked more like Superman and the Flash in the regular season opener against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
We had to wait until the second half to see the fireworks from Fuller, who struggled in the first half of the game with only one catch for seven yards. Hopkins, on the other hand, hauled in a monster 23-yard touchdown grab over Bears cornerback Tracy Porter late in the second quarter.
By the end of the half, the receiving game looked to be another solo effort from Hopkins. Other than the lone grab, Fuller also missed on a potential deep ball reception that he let slip through his hands.
“I tried to forget about it. My teammates were telling me to forget about it so I tried my best to forget about it and go out there and help my team win,” Fuller said during a post-game media scrum by his locker. “I just kept my head down and did what I had to do to help my team win, and when I got the chance to get the ball into my hands, I just did my best to try to make something happen.”
And boy did he make something happen. Fuller got the ball in his hands in the second half, and the Bears defense paid the price.
A couple of big receptions on a slant and curl route seemed to light a fire under the former Notre Dame star wideout. By the fourth quarter, he was punching his ticket into the end zone with a screen pass from quarterback Brock Osweiler. That play would have been more than enough to kick up the feet and call it a successful opening day for a rookie receiver, but Fuller capped off his first touchdown reception with a diving 35-yard grab down the sidelines.
“It’s a dream come true—my first regular season game in the National Football League is a lifelong dream. So it was great to come out here and play in a regular season game,” said Fuller.
The Texans were the division champions a year ago with an unstable quarterback situation, lack of production running the football and no consistent receiving threat outside of Hopkins. There is no question that this is a much-improved offense from last season.
Defenses will always have to account for Hopkins, who usually elicits a double team over the top. That should open up more opportunities for Fuller to simply beat his man in one-on-one coverage. He can work in the middle of the field, and he is also capable of making plays vertically like he did on Sunday.
Hopkins finished the day with five receptions, 54 yards and one touchdown, while Fuller led all receivers with five receptions, 107 yards and a touchdown.
Help has officially arrived.