Making the Grade: Tight ends
Texans' tight end report card
Now that the Super Bowl is over and the NFL is into the offseason, we’re taking a position-by-position look at the Texans. On Monday we looked at the secondary. Today, we take a look at the tight ends.
Stud: Owen Daniels
After a three-year absence, Daniels made his return to the Pro Bowl and had one of the best seasons of his seven-year career. Daniels caught 62 passes for 716 yards and six touchdowns. He was second on the team in receptions and receiving yards (behind Andre Johnson) and was first in touchdowns.
Daniels showed up big in the Texans’ playoff win too. Against the Bengals, he caught nine balls (a franchise playoff record) for 91 yards. But that game was just Daniels getting back to the way he started his 2012 season.
The 30-year-old tight end began this season on a career pace. He had at least 50 yards receiving in six of his first nine games but didn’t do it in any of his six remaining regular season games. He missed one game and dealt with a hip/back injury throughout the back end of the regular season.
Dud: James Casey
It’s not that Casey had a bad season. In fact, he had his best season statistically in 2012. He had 34 catches for 330 yards and three touchdowns. He actually had a better season statistically than backup tight end Garrett Graham. So how can we call Casey the dud?
It’s not that he isn’t good; it’s that his ceiling is much higher. Casey is a physical freak. Watching him toss a football 60 yards before games has become a favorite activity of several media members. He has some of the best hands on the team and has the potential to be a much more effective player in the NFL.
There’s a good chance that he’ll become a good player in the NFL. But it probably won’t happen in Houston. And that’s a shame for Houston fans who have already seen guys like Trindon Holliday and Jacoby Jones thrive elsewhere.
Free agents: Casey
Look ahead: Daniels is signed through 2014 (his cap hit is $5.5 million next year and $6 million in two years) and Graham is signed through the end of next season and doesn’t get paid a whole lot.
Casey made $615,000 in 2012, in the final year of his four-year rookie contract. But Casey got a late start in football after playing baseball in the White Sox organization for three seasons. Casey is 28 and this will likely be his final chance to make some serious money, so don’t expect him to give a hometown discount to the Texans or anyone else.
And Casey will probably have plenty of suitors. He’s a unique talent and will be coveted even more because of his ability to play a hybrid fullback/tight end spot. Fewer and fewer teams seem willing to use a spot on a fullback.
If Casey is gone, that will leave the tight end spot in the very capable hands of Daniels and Graham. While talking at his locker on the Monday after the loss to the Patriots, Graham said he expected the Texans’ offense to use him more next season. They already use plenty of two-tight-end sets and Graham has shown the ability to be a viable receiver.
If Daniels and Graham can both stay healthy in 2013 (Graham had two concussions and Daniels had a nagging hip injury) the tandem might end up being one of the better ones in the league.