HOUSTON -- Quarterback Jeff Driskel called the Houston Texans offense back into the huddle just before third-and-goal against the New Orleans Saints. The drive should have ended on the play before, but rookie receiver Johnny Johnson III dropped an easy reception in the flats.
Driskel, a journeyman going on his fifth season, gave Johnson a tap on the shoulder before calling the next play. He told him not to hang his head and that he'd make up for it later.
That's the thing about Johnson, a 6-1, 199-pound receiver out of Oregon. His head wasn't down, nor was he upset about the drop. Redemption was about to come his way, and Driskel knew what Johnson was thinking before calling the play.
“He knew that the ball was going to come back his way," Driskel said.
A play later, Johnson's 6-yard touchdown reception played the ultimate factor in Houston's 17-13 win over New Orleans Saturday night at NRG Stadium.
The win won't mean anything for the Texans' record in 2022. It will mean something to Johnson, who looks to make the final 53-man roster.
And as one of two receivers to catch a touchdown, he'll have a case to make when roster cutdowns arrive prior to kickoff on Sept. 11 against the Indianapolis Colts.
Then again, so will the other receiver on the end of a Driskel touchdown. Second-year option Jalen Camp made sure to state his claim in the second quarter with a 4-yard score of his own.
"For young players that know that they're going to get a limited amount of opportunities, when you get it, you need to make yourself known," Texans coach Lovie Smith said postgame. "So that's what was good."
Camp, a 6-2, 202-pound target out of Georgia Tech, spent time on the Texans' practice squad last season. General manager Nick Caserio saw potential in practice and elected to sign him to a reserve/future contract in January.
Throughout training camp, Camp has been consistent. His routes are crisp when attacking defensive backs. His hands are one with his body downfield. There's been a few highlight grabs along the way, certainly ones that have caught the eye of the coaching staff.
Route-running is his specialty, and it was on-point late Saturday. During the fourth quarter, Driskel found Camp for a 49-yard gain, putting Houston in New Orleans' territory. Without the catch, Johnson's touchdown grab wouldn't exist.
Camp and Johnson finished with two catches apiece. Camp tallied 53 yards compared to Johnson's 25, but Houston doesn't win without either's contributions.
Houston believes both Camp and Johnson have potential. Depending on how it feels on certain receivers, one will likely sneak onto the active roster while the other could be kept around on the practice squad for the year or until injury.
Just because a player doesn't make the initial roster doesn't mean they won't have a chance in time. Last season, safety Jonathan Owens spent over half the year working scout team. He was activated in December, made a pair of starts and now looks to start once more opposite rookie Jalen Pitre in Week 1.
"You give guys an opportunity and they show you something that you haven't seen," Smith said.
Another week could give Smith and the coaches a better look at which player is improving. Camp remains a constant in practice, but Johnson continues to keep up the pace.
Driskel is the first to admit how things change under the lights, but both receivers seemed comfortable against opposing defenses. Both also factored into a win.
For now, that's enough.
"It was awesome for those guys to go out there and figure out a way to get the ball in the end zone," Driskel said.
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