Who steps up with Demaryius Thomas out?

The Texans are exploring options at wide receiver after losing veteran Demaryius Thomas to an Achilles injury late in Sunday’s game at Philadelphia. With one regular season game remaining, Houston hopes to have a variety of weapons available to Deshaun Watson heading into the postseason.

“Demaryius is a great player, excellent pro, but (we) feel good about the guys that we have and also some of the moves we may make to help that position,” head coach Bill O’Brien said Monday. “Feel good about the guys. We have strong guys on the roster. We have strong guys on the practice squad. We’ve got a strong wide receiver group. I think we can do some things to take up the slack there a little bit. It will be a loss because he was such a good pro and a mentor and all of those things that we’ve always said about him, but we have to move forward.”

Alongside All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins, Thomas provided the Texans with a solid No. 2 option at receiver in his seven starts. Rookie Keke Coutee has been a dynamic playmaker in the slot, but a nagging hamstring injury has kept him out of nine games this season, including the last four. When active, Coutee has averaged 10.25 yards per reception, catching 28 passes for 287 yards and one touchdown. Coutee is a possibility to return in for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“He’s worked hard to come back and then he’s had a setback, worked hard to come back, had a setback,” O’Brien said. “So, we’ll see how it goes this week. He’s a really good, young player. We like him. We just have to see how it goes this week.”

Vyncint Smith, the undrafted rookie out of Limestone, has been a healthy scratch in nine games this season. Despite starting in the regular season opener against New England, Smith did not record his first NFL catch until he made a 28-yard reception on Sept. 23 against the New York Giants. His second reception was the 35-yard touchdown that gave Houston a 30-29 fourth-quarter lead over the Philadelphia Eagles.

“He’s really improved,” O’Brien said. “I think he’s a guy that’s got really good speed. He’s a much improved route-runner. You don’t make that throw unless you have faith in the guy to make that play. I know D4 (Deshaun Watson) has faith in the guy to make plays, and that’s big – the trust – the trust factor is big. But, I really like Vyncint. I think he’s a really good guy. He works hard and hopefully he can make some plays for us.”

The Texans also picked up DeAndre Carter, prior to Week 10. Carter, mainly used as a return specialist on kickoffs and punts, has also added stepped in on offense. In the last two games against the Jets and the Eagles, the first-year receive has caught eight passes for 116 yards.

“He plays a different position than Demaryius, but he can definitely help,” O’Brien said. “He’s been a good addition to our team. He had some good returns yesterday. He’s a very tough guy. He took a hit on a return late in the game, got up and then made some plays for us on offense, made some big plays. I think he had six catches yesterday, which is really good. He plays mostly on the inside on offense and is a strong player, tough, great guy, smart. So, he’s been a good addition.”

The Texans have clinched a playoff spot, but can still win an AFC South division title with a win on Sunday. Houston will host the Jacksonville Jaguars in Sunday’s regular season finale. Kickoff is set for 12 noon on CBS and SportsRadio 610.

The Houston Texans took on the Philadelphia Eagles for Week 15 of the 2018 NFL season.

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