FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots will face off against one of this season’s most prolific receivers Thursday night. And we’re not even talking about DeAndre Hopkins.
That would be Houston Texans first-round draft pick Will Fuller, who on Sunday became the first rookie to surpass 100 receiving yards in each of his first two NFL games since DeSean Jackson did so in 2008.
Though he’s caught just nine passes for the Texans, Fuller is tied for fourth in the league in receiving yards with 211 and has served as a superb complement to Hopkins, a 2015 second-team All-Pro who’s coming off the most productive season of his career.
“Fuller, another big guy in height and length, great speed, does a great job of getting open, and someone who they obviously have found a lot of trust in,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Monday in a conference call with reporters. “The quarterback (Brock Osweiler) has a great on-field relationship, as far as looks — they’re trying to get both of those guys the ball. Fuller can obviously create the big play very quickly, and it’s a big problem as far as the deep part of the field is concerned.”
Osweiler, who’s in the first year of a four-year, $72 million contract, has leaned heavily on Fuller and Hopkins this season. They’ve accounted for 21 of the quarterback’s 41 completions, 378 of Houston’s 499 receiving yards and 17 of the team’s 35 first downs.
On the flip side, the Patriots’ pass defense has not been particularly effective thus far. New England has allowed 641 yards through the air through two games — fifth-most in the NFL — and was shredded by Ryan Tannehill on Sunday during the Miami Dolphins’ ultimately unsuccessful second-half comeback.
Some additional notes from Monday:
— The Patriots will have a short week to prepare for the Texans, who sit at 2-0 after beating the Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs.
New England defensive end Chris Long described how he typically prepares for Thursday night games.
“I start by pretending this is not Monday,” Long said. “This is effectively … what the hell day is it? It’s like a Thursday, so I just trick my mind into thinking it’s Thursday night now and we are playing a Sunday night game. I’ll wake up tomorrow, and it’ll be Friday.”
He added: “It’s always tough to prepare in the NFL whenever the game is, and a shorter week just puts a bigger emphasis on hurrying up, getting into the film room, moving past whatever happened the day before and just setting that body clock. Thursday is coming in three days, and you’ve got to be ready.
“The same things you do every week, but just more of it. Sleep’s always important, hydration, all that stuff. There’s no magic potion. You’ve just got to do what you do every week and do that some more. That’s how you get ready for a short week.”
— During an interview with WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” in which he explained how he helped recruit Long to New England, Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola also recalled his first introduction to the Patriot Way.
“The Patriot Way, that’s been here a long time,” Amendola said. “I didn’t know that until I first got here, too, and it opened my eyes. Honestly, when I signed here, just meeting Bill (Belichick) — usually when you sign a contract somewhere, you will go do a press conference or something like that. And Bill said, ‘No, we’re not doing any of that (expletive).’ I was like, ‘Hell yeah. We’re getting to work now.’ I learned pretty quick.”
Thumbnail photo via Erik Williams/USA TODAY Sports Images