The Texans have one of the best wide receivers in football in Andre Johnson and an established No. 2 in Kevin Walter. Beyond that, it's a wide-open competition.
Johnson, 31, missed nine games in 2011 with hamstring injuries and had arthroscopic knee surgery in the offseason, forcing him to miss OTAs (organized team activities). The five-time Pro Bowler had 33 catches for 492 yards and two touchdowns last season, all career-lows, but rebounded with 13 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown in the first two playoff games of his career.
Before he was hobbled by injuries in 2011 and 2010, Johnson led the league in receiving yards in 2008 and 2009. He became one of two receivers in NFL history with 1,500 yards in back-to-back seasons. He has more receiving yards per game in his career (79.1) than any receiver in NFL history.
"We know what he can do when he's healthy," said Texans wide receivers coach Larry Kirksey, who has also coached Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Jimmy Smith. "You go back last year and that's unfortunate that it happened to him, nd you go back the year before and he had a high-ankle sprain for 13 games and still had almost 1,300 yards, so that just shows you what kind of player he is. When he's healthy, he's without a doubt one of the best."
Walter, who also will be 31 this season, had 39 catches for 474 yards and three touchdowns in 2011. The 10th-year veteran has started at least 14 games for the Texans in five consecutive seasons. He had four consecutive 50-catch, 600-yard seasons from 2007-10.
No other receiver on the Texans' roster has caught a single NFL pass. The group consists of four rookies and four young veterans who have played in a combined five games.
"They're young, I can tell you that," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said during OTAs. "It's exciting because we've got a lot of ability to work with, but obviously, we've got a long, long way to go. It'll be interesting to see how they sort themselves out."
The Texans released Jacoby Jones this offseason after drafting DeVier Posey (Ohio State) and Keshawn Martin (Michigan State) in the third and fourth rounds, respectively. Second-year pro Lestar Jean also is a leading candidate to make the roster after practicing as a starter during OTAs. The big question is whether the Texans will keep five wide receivers or six.
Posey (6-1, 208), who ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, started 29 games at Ohio State but was suspended for 10 games last season. The Texans think he has the tools to eventually develop into a starter. Martin (5-11, 194) was an all-purpose threat at Michigan State, scoring a touchdown rushing, receiving, passing and as a punt and kick returner. He was tabbed by coaches as a pleasant surprise in OTAs and could make an immediate impact as a slot receiver and returner.
Jean (6-3, 205), an undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic in 2011, was one of about 25 veteran Texans players who were excused from mini-camp practices from June 14-16. He had a standout training camp as a rookie but suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the second preseason game.
Other young receivers vying for a roster spot are Jeff Maehl (6-0, 178), a 2011 undrafted rookie out of Oregon who was activated from the practice squad for the final three games of the season; Trindon Holliday (5-5, 170), a 2009 sixth-round pick with blazing speed who is still developing as a receiver; Juauqin Iglesias (6-0, 205), a third-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2009 who joined the Texans' practice squad last December; and undrafted rookies Jerrell Jackson (6-0, 192) from Missouri and Mario Louis (6-0, 195) from Grambling State.