Houston Texans Film Study: Keshawn Martin, Lestar Jean Show Growth

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistAugust 29, 2012

Jean knocks a 49er on his ass and scores.
Jean knocks a 49er on his ass and scores.Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Houston Texans don't care much what draft experts think. They have their own way of operating.

Despite a multitude of calls for them to draft a wideout in the first round, they went their own way, taking pass-rusher Whitney Mercilus.

That left a gaping hole for Houston at wide receiver. Behind the perennially fantastic Andre Johnson, they are left with the declining Kevin Walter and a bevy of unknown talents.

Two of those fine young players have emerged as favorites for playing time in 2012. The Texans are counting on Keshawn Martin and Lestar Jean to help bolster the passing game.

Both are physically gifted young men with next-level abilities. Despite being undervalued at draft time, the former fourth-round pick Martin shows incredible burst and great speed.

Jean went undrafted in 2011, but has had two impressive camps in a row. He's got excellent size and strength and is threatening to find his way into the lineup on a regular basis.

A look at their game film from their second and third preseason games shows young players struggling with consistency while obviously displaying outstanding raw ability.

First, let's look at Martin. In his last two games, he posted five catches for 48 yards with a touchdown, but also a fumble.

Against San Francisco, Martin opened the game with a beautiful reception that showed off his ability to generate space by running a precise route. He made his break just as the ball was released, and Schaub hit him for a big gain.

The Texans had him lined up wide with Johnson in the slot. It was a great play design as Johnson cleared out the middle for Martin to take full advantage.

Again, late in the third quarter in the same game, Martin ran a superior route to spring himself open for a first down grab. His route running combined with good speed on the outside make him an impressive prospect.

Everything isn't perfect for Martin, however. In the third game he fumbled twice against New Orleans. Both times, he carried the ball loosely.

The Texans tried to run plays to feature him and put his speed on display, but ball security was an issue. It's obviously too soon to label him a fumbler, but there did look to be technique issues when he was carrying the ball.

Whereas Martin runs nice routes and has blazing speed, Jean is a beast. He's physically imposing at 6'3" and uses his frame to generate space.

Against San Francisco, he sat down in the hole nicely, forming a massive target for Matt Schaub on a big third down. He then followed that up with a nice leaping grab before barreling over two 49ers on his next catch on his way into the end zone.

Against New Orleans, he only had one target, but it was a superlative feat of strength. He ripped the ball free of a defender, securing a long gain.

Again, he's not without flaws either. He didn't appear to get open as often as Martin. He also dropped a catchable ball against San Francisco and his play against the Saints was in part caused because he failed to initially secure the pass.

Both Martin and Jean scored touchdowns on similar routes, crossing over the middle near the goal line. The Texans have so many weapons that both men should benefit from more than a couple gimme scores this season.

Gary Kubiak does a nice job with play design that causes wideouts to pop wide open as defenses will be forced to double Johnson.

In watching Jean and Martin, it's clear there will be some growing pains, and neither player is elite yet. However, they both have very bright futures and interesting skill sets that should allow them to complement each other for a long time.

In the long run, I like Martin's skills better but find Jean's size irresistible right now, especially in third down situations. Fans should be patient as both men will be playing their first real NFL season. In two or three years, the Texans may find they have not one gem, but two.