Opportunity can be bittersweet in the NFL. Jacoby Jones and David Anderson didn't want tight end Owen Daniels to be lost for the season. Still, you can believe they heard the loud rap on the door when Daniels suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the year on Nov. 1 against the Buffalo Bills.
Someone had to step up, and Jones and Anderson accepted the challenge.
"In the NFL, all you can hope for is an opportunity," Anderson said. "Some players are given more than others, but when they're there, you have to take advantage of them or they'll give them to somebody else. Jacoby and I both have taken advantage of the opportunities. When you lose a great player like Owen, you lose productivity. It's something we pride ourselves on doing."
Daniels had 40 catches for 519 yards and five touchdowns when he went down. The injury robbed Daniels of his second consecutive Pro Bowl opportunity and forced quarterback Matt Schaub to find other targets when defenses ganged up on Andre Johnson.
Both Anderson and Jones have increased their roles over last season, especially since Daniels' departure.
"This is the NFL, where you always have to fight for your job," Jones said. "Everybody can play, so that's one thing. My concern was to be consistent and be that spark player when they call on me. This is my third year. As the years go on, the game isn't as fast.
"Now I know where I'm going, how I'm setting up. I know the chemistry. I know the guys, they know how I run, and I know how they block. We've all got great confidence in each other. I've worked on being mature on the field as well as in the classroom, paying attention to the film and work on the details."
Anderson has caught 37 passes for 356 yards for a 9.6 average per catch. Last year, he had 19 receptions for 241 yards, a 12.7 average and two touchdowns. Jones' figures also have jumped. He had a mere three catches for 81 yards last year and no touchdowns. This year, he's caught 22 passes for 372 yards, a 16.9 average and five touchdowns.
"They've both done a good job," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "David has brought in that consistency that we had from O.D. I trust David to separate on third down as much as anyone on this team. He can make the tough catches and he can get open underneath. I have a lot of confidence in him moving the chains.
"Then, Jacoby, he can make a big play as much as anyone in this league. Anytime he touches the ball, he has a chance to do something good. The more consistency he can get, the more down-in and down-out and not just the big plays and making the little plays, he can be as good as anyone."
Jones is having his most productive season as a punt returner and wide receiver. Maturity had been an issue in his first two seasons. This year, he's showing he's ready to walk the walk.
"He's a different type player," wide receivers coach Larry Kirksey said. "He's preparing better. He understands his role and he's doing a much better job. His playmaking skills have been showing throughout the season. We still have a way to go with him, but at this time he's a pleasant surprise."
Anderson has caught more passes this season than in his first three years in the league combined. He has played in all 15 games and he has started seven games.
"He has great awareness and understands man and zone (coverages)," Shanahan said. "He understands the leverage of the players he's going against. He works at it. He knows the technique he needs to get open and when you give him stuff underneath, I feel it will get open for you and move the chains."
Shanahan expects Jones to become unstoppable.
"Jacoby just needs the consistency to be out there every play and we need to get him out there because he can make some big, big plays," Shanahan said. "The more he matures as a receiver and always is in the exact spot and runs his routes consistently; they can't cover him, unless he doesn't run his route the right way. He's too talented. His upside is unbelievable."
Schaub has blended both Jones and Anderson into the offense.
"This whole league is a war of attrition," Schaub said. "It's the team that can avoid the injuries the most and stay healthy the longest and battle through adversity up front.
"And Owen going down, we've been able to plug some guys in there and they've stepped up and played well. We've had guys to step into opportunities and they've stepped up in a big way."
Receiving by committee became the plan after Daniels' injury.
"That was the plan when O.D. went down, we were going to do it by committee," Schaub said. "We were going to have to make up for O.D. with multiple guys and they've stepped up in a big way, Jacoby making some big plays and David moving the chains with his underneath catches."
Anderson and Jones each has upside in the Texans' future. Jones, especially, is geared for big plays.
"He's close but not quite there yet," Kirksey said. "Once he gets there, we'll all know."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky., Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro teams.