The idea was always a topic of discussion under the Kubiak era but there was never any real slot wide receiver used the way other teams across the NFL used the position.
Which brings us to this year under the new offensive philosophy Bill O’Brien is bringing to the Texans which uses the slot position as an important piece of the offense.
Coming into the voluntary mini-camp, the Texans had little idea in what they had in the position. But after their three-day camp prior to the NFL draft, O’Brien felt there were some questions regarding the position. That thought process changed for O’Brien after the three days:
“I did say that and now being out here for a few days, including our coaching sessions, there are a few guys, including Mike (Thomas), that have the skill set to play in the slot and to play outside. That’s why these camps are good.”
During rookie mini-camp, the Texans took a concerted effort to bring in more inside receivers who fit the position with the likes of Travis Labhart (50-9, 182 lbs) and Anthony McClung (6-0, 177 lbs.), who started strong during the rookie camp.
Now with OTAs arriving, the likes of Keshawn Martin, Alan Bonner and Mike Thomas have become viable options for the offense. The position is taking shape on the field and there has been a concerted effort to work the position with the quarterbacks differently than the outside receivers.
There will be some carry over on what O’Brien wants the slot receiver to do on the outside but it looks like the position will be specialized. Specialized in the sense that the majority of the game will be played by that player in the slot and maybe pushing some high catch rates from a position that calls for it.
We asked O’Brien his thoughts on the slot position after Monday’s OTAs practice:
“One of the things that you try to do is have guys that can play multiple roles. In that position, you’re looking for more of an inside guy. That is where most of his value to the offense is. He can also do some things on the outside. I think we’ve got some guys there. I’m not going to get into individual names that have practiced in the slot and are doing a decent job. There are also guys that can do some things on the outside. To me, that position has come along pretty well.”
The position battle will be one to watch when training camp arrives and with the majority of the work being equally distributed, they will start to separate themselves in August.
Finally getting the slot wide receiver in Houston is a good thing and seeing how the position has been used under O’Brien prior to arriving should let in some clues on how valuable this position is to the team’s success. The talent is here heading into mandatory mini-camp and getting top-notch playmakers who can separate in small spaces is key. At the moment, Thomas and Bonner fit the role the best.
There is still a long road ahead for the position to be filled, but it will become a position of interest to watch moving forward.