The Houston Texans got a first look at first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins in their preseason opener Friday night.
But they also had some nice performances by other young receivers, giving them reason to believe that the group behind star Andre Johnson will be much stronger this season.
Johnson didn't play against the Vikings, giving the young players a chance to shine. Lestar Jean, who is playing in his second season after missing the entire 2011 season with an injury, led the group with six receptions for 52 yards, and Hopkins had four catches for 52 yards. Keshawn Martin also drew coach Gary Kubiak's attention by grabbing two passes for 30 yards.
"There were plenty of mistakes and we can get better," Kubiak said. "But we have a lot of ability out there."
Hopkins was the 27th pick overall out of Clemson and has impressed since the beginning of camp. The Texans were eager to see how he adjusted to game action, and he didn't disappoint, making a leaping catch to snag a 34-yard touchdown pass in Houston's 27-13 win over Minnesota.
Despite the success, Kubiak is still looking for much more from Hopkins.
"It's easy as a player, when you make a big play or something (to say): 'Boy, I had a great game,'" Kubiak said. "We always talk about being a pro and being a pro is being consistent. There's a lot of things he's going to learn: depth of routes, landmarks, where he's supposed to be, releases. He's going to look at his grade and probably not like some of the things he gets graded on. But ... we're always looking for perfection."
Kubiak singled out rookie receivers Alec Lemon, Andy Cruse and Uzoma Nwachukwu for their contributions on Friday night. Lemon is the only one of those three who caught a pass, finishing with one reception for seven yards. But he was impressed with the work the group did without the ball as well as their performances on special teams.
He's also anxious to see what sixth-round pick Alan Bonner can do when he recovers from a hamstring injury he suffered last week in practice.
"It's a good group," he said. "We just need to continue to push forward. We need to get Bonner back on the field. He's a big key to the puzzle so to speak, so hopefully we get him back this week."
The game also gave Kubiak a chance to get a good look at backup quarterbacks T.J. Yates and Case Keenum. Yates came in after Matt Schaub and was 13 of 21 for 151 yards a touchdown. Keenum finished the game and was 13 of 18 for 125 yards and another touchdown toss.
Yates was Houston's backup last season and Keenum, who threw for more than 5,000 yards in three straight seasons for the University of Houston, was on the practice squad.
Keenum's improvement has made the competition to be Schaub's backup this season much more interesting.
"It's just a very competitive situation for us right now and it's going to make our team better," Kubiak said. "It's making both of those guys better. It will help them in their careers, but it's definitely making our team better. There is a lot of confidence with our team, when they see either guy come in the huddle we can still move the football. That's a big plus."