Head coach Bill O'Brien and offensive coordinator George Godsey wanted to add some creativity to their gameplan against a tough Jets defense. O'Brien brainstormed on who he could use to run the wildcat formation. Running back Jonathan Grimes had done it last year for the Texans. Cecil Shorts III had done it for the Jaguars.
In fact, Shorts used to play quarterback at Mount Union before switching to wide receiver after his sophomore season. He told O'Brien was still familiar with it from his college days. O'Brien asked Shorts to stay after practice last week and try it out.
"He threw and he looked good throwing," O'Brien said. "He can throw and he can run the wildcat."
That comes as no surprise to teammate Nate Washington.
"Cecil chucks that ball around practice all day every day, just playing around," Washington said, joking. "I think the coaches were finally tired of seeing him play around with that arm and brought it out in a real game."
On Sunday against the Jets, Shorts did put his passing skills on display. T.J. Yates tossed the ball to Shorts on a lateral, and the wide receiver then threw a deep 21-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Alfred Blue.
"I was excited," Shorts said. "Even before the play started, I was just thinking, 'I am going to launch this bad boy as far as I can.' But no, when I saw him open, I was just thinking, 'Just complete the ball' and didn't want to lead him too much because I didn't want him to get nervous."
Shorts contributed 56 yards of offense on the scoring drive that gave the Texans a 17-10 lead with 7:51 left in the third quarter. Shorts caught back-to-back passes, the first on third-and-13 for a 16-yard gain while sandwiched between defenders. The fifth-year veteran then added a 35-yard catch-and-run from T.J. Yates.
Following the catches, Shorts took a direct snap and rushed for 5 yards. Shorts had taken several direct snaps in the game, including two in the first half for 19 yards rushing.
"I am really familiar with the zone read and the offensive line did a great job blocking," Shorts said.
Shorts finished the game with two catches for 51 yards, four carries for 26 yards, and completed 1-of-1 for 21 yards and a touchdown for a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
"I tell people, however many quarterbacks we have on this team, if there's four, I'm like the fifth-best," Shorts said, laughing.
On Dec. 28, 2014, Shorts made a similar double-pass scoring play at NRG Stadium in the same endzone. As a Jacksonville Jaguar, he threw a 23-yard touchdown against the Texans in the season finale.
See photos of Texans players arriving at NRG Stadium.