Reporting Paul Gallant
You wouldn’t think much of wide receiver Lestar Jean if you looked at his career resume.
He played college ball at FAU, a mediocre program stuck in the pathetic Sun Belt conference. He went unselected in the 2011 NFL draft, signing with the Texans when no other team came knocking on his door. And he didn’t see the field once during his first year, missing the entire regular season with a shoulder injury.
Through two preseason games, that past history is irrelevant. His size (6’3, 205 lbs) and freakish athleticism have stood out, allowing him to make plays against the Panthers and 49ers in back to back games. It makes you wonder: How did this guy go unnoticed by 31 other teams?
That’s a question that 31 executives should be asking their scouting departments. Especially when you recall what head coach Gary Kubiak said about him a week ago.
“He has a chance to be a big-time player in this league, not just a good player,” gushed Kubiak. “So we’re going to push him, trying to find that next level.”
Whatever the Texans are doing to help Jean’s growth, it sure seems to be working. Just take a look at his stats against the 49ers: 4 receptions, 42 yards, and a touchdown. The majority of those catches came in clutch situations, as Lestar converted three third downs for Houston – including the TD catch.
Jean’s obviously excited about his play thus far. You could hear it in his voice after the game. But you also get the sense that he has a huge chip on his shoulder.
“It’s been a long road, you know,” said Jean. “Being hurt last year and being undrafted, not getting recruited out of high school, it’s just been a long journey for me man.”
That journey is no where near finished. While Jean looked good playing with the first team Saturday, those opportunities came against 49er backups. Anyone can be a preseason hero. The key is to keep improving into the regular season.
And it’s important that he does. Kevin Walter is a solid second option, but he isn’t a play-maker. If Andre Johnson goes down again, you can’t count on Walter to be a go-to-receiver down field. Meanwhile, KeShawn Martin – who’s been brilliant this preseason too – is more of a slot-man.
Jean, while still raw, has the potential to be that guy. If he continues to improve, the Texans should seriously consider making him the number two receiver.
“He’s gaining confidence with every play that he makes,” said Kubiak. All the skill is there, and I don’t think he has a chance to be a good player, I think he has a chance to be a really good player. So that’s what we’re pushing him toward.”
If Lestar has a chance to be a “really good player”, there’s no reason to think he can’t overtake Walter as the Texans’ second wide receiver.
Think about it. Walter gets a lot of credit for being a great blocker. But with Jean’s size and athleticism, he could just as easily do what Walter does – assuming that he improves his footwork and strength. Plus, having Johnson and Jean on the field at the same time would make defenses think twice about loading the box to stop running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
There’s no reason to think Jean won’t continue to improve. And having two playmaking receivers on the field at the same time is certainly better than one. If Jean continues his hot play, the Texans have got to give it a shot.