HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610) -- Keke Coutee is returning punts at Texans training camp and he’s on the right track to bouncing back from a letdown 2019 season.
Coutee is a talented, confident player who immediately showed his ability two seasons ago as a rookie. After missing the first three games of 2018 with a hamstring injury, Coutee debuted in Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts with 11 catches for 109 yards, setting the record for most catches in an NFL debut since the AFL-NFL merger.
But he dealt with the hamstring injury throughout the season, first injured in training camp, then re-aggravated again later in the season.
Coutee played in only six regular season games his rookie year, eventually returning for the playoff game against the Colts, and he shined once again.
Coutee caught another 11 passes, this time for 110 yards and set a new Texans franchise record for the most catches by a player in a postseason game.
Last season, Coutee suffered an ankle sprain in the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers, forcing him to miss Week 1. It seemed like he never fully recovered, and his performance was inconsistent.
Despite playing in more games (nine in 2019, six in 2018), Coutee saw fewer targets, catches and yards.
“Some guys, it takes a little bit longer. Keke’s had to deal with injuries. And then when he’s played, he’s been very productive,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said Tuesday. “You remember his rookie year, he had a big game against Indianapolis. He’s a guy that just has dealt with some hamstring and some ankle. I think the big thing for Keke is health.
"He’s a very confident player, very good player. I think Randall Cobb has helped him, just watching how Randall Cobb operates. I think that’s really helped him. He’s had a good camp. I think he’s done a good job returning punts in camp, in addition to his receiving duties.
“He just needs to keep it going and the big thing is health, which is really the case with a lot of guys. It’s just some of their journeys to a consistent career take a little bit longer than other guys and some of it’s just luck. It’s either bad luck or good luck. I think he’s on the right track.”
O’Brien has said the wide receiver position is competitive and there will be tough conversations about who they keep on the 53-man roster.
Offensive coordinator and first-year play caller Tim Kelly said Coutee is doing everything he's been asked to do, making plays when they come his way and building trust with the quarterbacks.
Expect Coutee to not only be one of those players, but to have an impact in 2020.
He’s competing with DeAndre Carter for punt returner and will get Deshaun Watson’s attention on crossing routes.
When Watson was asked last week about what his favorite play might become this season, in the absence of go routes to DeAndre Hopkins, the quarterback named all of his weapons:
“Go routes to 15 (Will Fuller V), go routes to 12 (Kenny Stills), go routes to 13 (Brandin Cooks), crossing routes to 18 (Randall Cobb), 16 (Keke Coutee).”