HOUSTON -- All is quiet on the Houston Texans' front in terms of on-field work. The Texans completed their mandatory minicamp earlier this month and will be away from the facility until the start of training camp on July 29.
This will give Texans fans time to ponder on the current outlook of the new season. It'll also give them plenty of hours to question the moves made by general manager Nick Caserio in free agency and the draft.
One of those questions is on the status of rookie receiver John Metchie III. Will he be ready to play in Week 1?
Metchie, the No. 44 pick in April's draft, was a priority selection for the Texans after the team met with him during the pre-draft process. Houston elected to use its initial second-round pick at No. 37 on Baylor safety Jalen Pitre but wasn't willing to wait for the Alabama pass-catcher to fall to No. 67, thus leading to a trade-up with the Cleveland Browns.
When healthy, Metchie is expected to compete for starting reps in the slot. At Alabama, he was a multi-purpose receiver, often interchanging from reps inside to reps on the perimeter.
Maybe his role will be the same in Houston, but he first must be cleared to return to practice. Metchie is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the SEC Championship Game last December.
"I wouldn't put too much stock in what he said," Caserio said of Metchie's status following the selection. "I think when he is ready, he is ready. Whenever that is, it is. We're not going to rush or push him. When he is ready and physically able, we feel that it's the right thing to do, then he will be on the field."
In an interview with The Houston Chronicle, Alabama team physician Dr. Lyle Cain said that Metchie was “beating every timetable we normally have." When asked on the rookie's availability this season, Cain stated that barring a setback, Metchie has a good chance to be ready to play."
The Texans are banking on Metchie's upside in their receiving room. They understood the risk of bringing him in, but his ability to win with crisp routes and exceptional tracking downfield.
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Keep in mind when Metchie is cleared to return, he could range from being the team's No. 2 to No. 4 option in the passing game. Brandin Cooks remains the No. 1 option after posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
Second-year receiver Nico Collins continued to build his chemistry with quarterback Davis Mills in camp. Houston also has high hopes for second-year tight end Brevin Jordan after becoming a focal point of the red zone offense last fall.
Metchie said that he'd be “full-go football” by July. During camp, he often would run routes on the sideline and work mental drills, but still wasn't cleared by Houston's medical staff to take on full-contact drills.
Mills, the team's projected starter, still could rely heavily on the slot position this fall after building a connection with veteran Danny Amendola. A native of The Woodlands, Amendola, 36, posted a season-high nine catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the season finale against the Tennessee Titans.
With Houston losing veteran DaeSean Hamilton to a knee injury, there's a sense that Metchie could see the field sooner than expected. Even if held back in training from contact drills, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton knows first-hand what type of impact Metchie can make after trying to recruit him to Michigan.
“He can create his own yards once he gets the ball in his hands," Hamilton said earlier this month. "He has good short-area quickness, which will allow him to beat man coverage, and that’s what you got to do in the National Football League.”
Working his way into the starting lineup by midseason is likely a reasonable expectation for Metchie. For production, anywhere from 35-55 receptions also seems to be fair after his 96-reception year at Alabama in 2021. For touchdowns? Mills will control that narrative.
Eight of the 21 passing touchdowns from last season came to receivers either in the flex or slot.
Houston won't be pushing Metchie right away, but once active, his role should expand quickly. By the season's end, he very well could be the Texans' No. 2 option in the passing game. At worst, he should be a high-end No. 3 receiver with room to grow come 2023.