Texans WR Keke Coutee eager to provide more than 'a little taste'

Keke Coutee made 11 catches in his debut against the Colts, and he made 11 more in the Texans' playoff loss to Indianapolis. But he had just 17 receptions in five other games. Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON -- After Keke Coutee’s NFL debut in Week 4 last season, the Houston Texans were hopeful they’d finally found their slot receiver.

In the Texans’ overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts, Coutee caught 11 passes for 109 yards. Those 11 receptions were the most by a receiver making his NFL debut since 1970. But because of hamstring injuries, Coutee played in just five more regular-season games and caught 17 passes the rest of the way.

“He’s a great kid, hard worker, but he was injured a lot,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said at the scouting combine in February. “We have to figure that out. He has to figure that out. Because when he played, he played very well. He was very productive.

“Here’s a guy that has a bright, bright future, but we’ve got to figure out how we can keep him on the field because, again, with every player, availability equals dependability, basically. He wants to be dependable. I know he’s working hard right now. We’re looking forward to having him. He’s a good football player. It’d be really good if we can have him for 16 games and then some.”

In an effort to be on the field as much as he can next season, Coutee spent the offseason getting his body “to the way it’s supposed to be." He said he did that with a lot of stretching and soft-tissue work, “flushing out my body just to get that old scarring tissue out of there.”

“Of course I wish I would have played more,” Coutee said. “But every time I got to play, those six games, I gave everything I had. That was my rookie year. This year is a different year. I’m looking to be out there all 16 games this season.”

Quarterback Deshaun Watson said he can tell Coutee “has a lot more confidence in himself and what he’s doing whenever he steps on the field.”

“He’s playing a lot faster and he’s out there helping all the young receivers get lined up and telling them what to do,” Watson said. “You can tell that anytime he’s on the field, you just try to get him the ball in space and let him go work.

“You never know what he’s going to do with the ball in his hands. He can do all types of stuff. He’s a guy that the defense has to worry about. ... A lot of people are very impressed with him, and so am I.”

While Coutee is still working on learning the ever-growing playbook, receiver DeAndre Hopkins said he has seen “a tremendous growth” in Coutee's knowledge of the game.

Coutee also has had the advantage of being healthy at OTAs. Hopkins has not been working on the practice field, and receiver Will Fuller is still rehabbing from a torn ACL. Because of this, Coutee has been able to spend more time “working on that connection” with Watson. Coutee said last season he felt “there were games where I was a little off,” but going into Year 2, “the connection is way stronger.”

And if Coutee can stay healthy, he believes he and the Texans’ receiving corps can be “very dangerous” for opposing defenses.

“What I did last season was just a little taste of what I can do,” Coutee said. “Like I said, that’s in the past and this is a new season, so I’m looking to get better any way I can.”