HOUSTON — The Texans lost an important piece of their offense when Will Fuller tore his ACL last Thursday, but quarterback Deshaun Watson said he expects the unit to pick up where it left off with the addition of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.
“Nothing, really, should stop the train,” Watson said Wednesday. “[Thomas] is a veteran guy who can do a lot of different things. And he’s played a lot of football, so it’s a great opportunity for all of us to get on the same page and continue to put a lot of yards in the air and put a lot of points on the board.”
The Texans acquired Thomas from the Denver Broncos on Tuesday, less than a week after Houston scored a season-high 42 points against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8. Thomas is expected to replace Fuller as Houston’s No. 2 receiver. Thomas has a different skill set than Fuller, as he’s more of a possession receiver, like DeAndre Hopkins, than the deep threat the speedy Fuller was.
In the Texans’ victory over the Dolphins, Watson completed 16 of his 20 passes for 239 yards and five touchdowns. Fuller had 124 of those yards and a touchdown.
“Will is a big piece of this offense,” Watson said. “It’s tough to lose a guy like that. But regaining a guy like [Thomas] and being able to include him in the offense and do the same thing that Will did is a great addition for us, too.”
In eight games this season, Thomas has 36 catches for 402 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for me,” Thomas said. “Change can be good, it can be bad. But I think it’s going to be good here. I’m excited to get to work and see what I can do to help this squad out.”
Texans coach Bill O’Brien said he’s still figuring out how the offense will adjust after losing Fuller and gaining Thomas, but he said, “You have to adapt and you have to figure out how you can now move the ball.”
While Thomas may not be as fast as Fuller, he has had some success downfield. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Thomas has 10 catches on 29 targets on throws 20-plus yards downfield over the past two seasons and has caught two touchdowns. In comparison, Fuller has 10 catches on 25 targets and 6 touchdowns on deep passes.
“Nothing’s changing,” Watson said when asked if the offense would be different without Fuller. “We’re doing what we’re doing. Throw it deep, throw it short, throw it across the middle. Everything we were going to do, we’re going to do. Just because we lose Will doesn’t mean the train’s going to stop or we’re going to take a different route.
“We’re going to continue to do the same thing. Yes, me and Demaryius have to put in some work to get on the same page, but … we’ll be just fine and we’ll pick it up high speed.”
Thomas has already started putting in the work to get ready to face his former team on Sunday. Thomas said that when he looked at the playbook Wednesday morning, some plays were familiar to him. O’Brien said there is some carryover and similar terminology from the offense Josh McDaniels ran in Denver in 2009 and 2010.
“Out at the walkthrough right now, we were talking about a route and he’s like, ‘OK, that’s like this,'” O’Brien said. “[It’s a] route that he used to run that maybe they called it a little bit different. But a rookie would never be able to say that. So that experience that he has in different offenses is definitely a help.”
Thomas will also see some familiarity on Sunday in Denver as he returns to play his former team. The veteran receiver said it will be “very strange” to “come here then to get ready to play in the Mile High City that [I’ve] been playing in for the last 8½ years.”
The Broncos plan to recognize him on Sunday, something he said will “be tough” emotionally.
“But it’s ball and I’ve got to deal with it,” Thomas said. “It means a lot, but at the end of the day, it’s still the Houston Texans trying to get a win. That will be my main focus before the game, throughout the game and if we get to do it at the end of the game, that will be the focus.”
Broncos coach Vance Joseph would expect nothing less from Thomas.
“[I’ll miss] the person,” Joseph said. “He was a great person, first of all, great player for a long time with this football team. He is a good man. He was all-in all the time.”
“It’s going to be different, obviously, trading him to a team we’re playing on Sunday,” Joseph said. “Just different.”
Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said he wishes Thomas the best, except for Sunday’s game.
“He’s going to want to come up here and show us we made a mistake trading him,” Harris said. “So we got to stop that.”
ESPN’s Jeff Legwold contributed to this report.