NFL Football

WR Thomas faces former team in Broncos-Texans matchup

The Houston Texans will be going for their sixth straight win on Sunday with a former member of the opponent on their side.

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, traded this week from Denver to Houston, makes his Texans debut against the Broncos.

Thomas gives the Texans a wideout to complement DeAndre Hopkins and helps offset the loss last week of Will Fuller V to a knee injury.

"I'm excited," Thomas said. "They always say change can be different. I know those guys have been doing great since they've been together, so I'm excited to be a piece and be a part of it."

His new teammates are glad to have him.

"I think it is awesome," Hopkins said. "Demaryius brings a lot of skill to this team. Experience in the NFL, he is a great guy off the field. I have trained with him before, I think it is a good move."

Texans head coach Bill O'Brien made it a point to say Hopkins remains the top target for quarterback Deshaun Watson.

"I don't think it's any secret," O'Brien said. "He's the leading target on third down. He's got a bunch of yards. He's our No. 1 receiver. We're not trying to hide him. Hop knows that. That's why he is who he is.

"I mean, nothing's changing. We're doing what we're doing," Watson said. "Throw it deep, throw it short, throw it across the middle. I mean, everything we're going to do, we're going to do.

"So just because we lose Will doesn't mean that the train is going to stop or we're going to take a different route."

For the Broncos, Thomas' departure clears the way for rookie Courtland Sutton to get on the field more with No. 1 receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Tim Patrick also is expected to see more playing time while DaeSean Hamilton nurses an injury.

Sutton has 17 receptions for 324 yards and two touchdowns in eight games (one start). He averages 19.1 yards per reception.

"Courtland can be special," Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said. "We've all watched him during training camp and through the first two months of the season. He's got special ability. Now he has got to prove it, along with DaeSean Hamilton and along with Tim Patrick.

"We've got some young guys that we think are capable. It speaks to our receiver room. It's a young room, but it's talented."

Denver quarterback Case Keenum said while he'll miss Thomas, he has faith in all of his receivers.

The Broncos are getting production from a trio of young players. Rookies Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman and Sutton have combined for 1,321 yards from scrimmage this season. It is the fifth most by a trio of rookies through eight games since the 1970 NFL merger.

"Obviously, as a quarterback, when you look to the left and right, just what kind of feelings do you get," Keenum said. "It's an unspoken kind of chemistry, non-verbal. You can call it a lot of things, but I feel that way about all of those guys. I've got trust in all of those guys."

On defense, the Broncos will get some much-needed help in the secondary with safety Su'a Cravens expected to make his season debut. Cravens was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury before the season but was cleared to practice two weeks ago.

"He's a playmaker," Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "To get a guy that's a big body like him -- he's a great blitzer. He can play the run and also he's a big body that can guard the tight ends too. Just another big body. He's going to be huge. A lot of times he's going to play right next to me."

Updated November 1, 2018

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