Texans expect even stronger offense this season

The Houston Texans had the third most potent offense in the AFC

last season, piling up more than 372 yards a game.

Andre Johnson’s career-high 1,598 yards receiving were second in

the NFL and Arian Foster ran for 1,424 yards for sixth best in the

league to power the Texans offense in 2012.

The Texans believe an influx of young talent, led by rookie

receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and the returning players could make the

offense even more explosive.

”I think that will keep the defenses a lot more honest this

year having to worry about more people, more than just Andre and

Arian or whatever it is,” tight end Owen Daniels said. ”That

makes things easier for us.”

If Hopkins, a first-round pick, develops the way the Texans

believe he will, he’ll give them a top-tier receiver to play

opposite Johnson for the first time. Hopkins has been solid so far,

blending seamlessly into the offense with the confidence of a

veteran.

”I think he’s balanced us up in training camp,” coach Gary

Kubiak said. ”The ball’s going both ways, so that’s a good thing.

He’s obviously shown that he’s got some special skills in the red

zone that he can get balls. It’s early right now, but I like the

balance of what’s going on.”

Quarterback Matt Schaub, who threw for 4,008 yards last year,

has been impressed with the work of Hopkins in practice. However,

he knows the true test will be how he responds in a game. Houston

will get the first opportunity to do that on Friday night against

the Minnesota Vikings.

”You can do it out here in practice when you get rep after rep,

but when it comes to crunch time in a game, that’s when you really

got to do it,” Schaub said. ”We’ve just got to get to the first

preseason game and see how far he has come and then progress from

there.”

Hopkins isn’t daunted by the idea of playing his first NFL game.

After all, he’s been doing well in practice each day against one of

the league’s elite defenses.

”I feel like I’m going against a great defense that’s putting

me in those situations against tough defenses, so I feel like I

match up pretty well,” he said.

Hopkins understands that while he’ll certainly be tasked with

making some catches this season, his other role is perhaps more

important that how many yards he gains.

”A lot of teams are going to focus in on Andre, so if I can

take a little bit of pressure off of him and make a couple plays

each game, it’s going to help the team out,” Hopkins said.

Against the Vikings, the Texans will get a chance to gauge the

development of some of their rookie running backs while Foster sits

out with back soreness. Ben Tate will likely start, but rookies Ray

Graham, Dennis Johnson and Cierre Wood should all see their first

NFL action.

While the work of Hopkins so far has been what the Texans

expected, a pleasant surprise in camp has been the emergence of

second-year receiver Keshawn Martin. Martin was a fourth-round pick

in 2012 and contributed mostly on special teams as a rookie and

finished with just 85 yards receiving.

Schaub raved about the improvement of Martin and is looking

forward to more offensive production this season.

”The type of talent that some of these young guys have brought

in with DeAndre and Keshawn’s growth is really just going to make

us even more explosive,” Schaub said. ”To have (Hopkins) opposite

of Andre and with Owen working in the middle of the field and

Keshawn working inside, it just gives us so many options and so

many weapons to do so many different route combinations.”

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org