O'Brien: Texans counting on improved Jaelen Strong

Welcome to Tropepalooza, a months long carnival of bloviation, hallow jubilees and trivial tributes. It's a time when everything in the football world seems bright, shiny and filled with rainbow roads reaching across the horizon.

Through the endless racket of Tropepalooza there are some notes that if struck properly can lead down a path of proper examination and excavation.

It is with that in mind we bring you Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien's praise of second-year receiver Jaelen Strong.

Strong, you'll remember, showed up last offseason out of shape, slanting the scale at nearly 230 pounds. He was also arrested this offseason on a marijuana possession charge in Arizona.

Now, Strong is down to 197 pounds and O'Brien sees an entirely new player.

"I just said to him today how far he's come," O'Brien said this week, via the Houston Chronicle. "He's a guy that a year ago today, I was concerned about him from a conditioning standpoint. I just didn't know what type of condition he was in. It wasn't very good. He really at some point in time before training camp, he came back and passed the conditioning test and really took off after that.

"He contributed in some games last year. He had a really good offseason. He's in really good shape. He's playing well. Hopefully it continues. He's a guy that we're definitely counting on."

"Player loses 33 pounds" is about as tropey as the offseason gets, but beat reporters agree that Strong is a new and improved receiver. Aaron Wilson notes that Strong has "been one of the more impressive players" at Texans organized team activities. Stephanie Stradley said O'Brien's praise was "no hype."

Strong's tropey emergence this offseason allows us to take another look at what could be an intriguing Texans receiving corps.

DeAndre Hopkins will be DeAndre Hopkins -- if the football gods are gracious, forever and always.

Behind the Pro Bowl pass-catcher sits a plethora of questions.

Will Fuller is expected to step right into a starting role. The first-round draft pick is a burner and a perfect complement to Hopkins, but rookie speedsters don't always translate right away. We've been spoiled with rookie receivers dominating from the jump, like Odell Beckham, Mike Evans or Amari Cooper. Historically that's not always been the case.

Cecil Shorts currently sits as the third option. While Shorts can play the third-fiddle role well enough, his talent-ceiling is capped.

Braxton Miller remains the wild card for the entire Texans offense. The former college quarterback showed flashes of playmaking ability in space last season at Ohio State. Miller owns the vision and speed to be a menace to secondaries. How quickly will his route running improve to beat NFL corners on non-gimmick plays? We expect Miller to play a role as a rookie, but will it be in a traditional sense, which would make the Texans a much more dangerous offense, or as a smoke-and-mirrors gadget player?

This all brings us back to Strong. If Fuller and Miller live up to expectations placed on them by scouts, Strong will see few snaps -- his roster spot could conceivable be in jeopardy. If either or both struggle to grasp the rigors of the NFL, the Texans' offense needs Strong to put O'Brien's praise into action.

The Texans' offense last season, much like Strong, was sluggish and highly disappointing. In 2016, Houston hopes to deploy a leaner, faster scoring machine.

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