For the most part, this year’s draft class for the Texans has been impressive during rookie camp, OTAs and minicamp.
And one of those rookies who has impressed from Day 1 is tight end Ryan Griffin, who was drafted in the sixth round out of Connecticut.
“He has a chance to be a really good player and I think he can get bigger, too, so we’re excited,” head coach Gary Kubiak said. “He fits the mold with what we do at tight end with the guys we have, and he’s very smart.”
With Kubiak preferring to rest veterans and with second-year tight end Phillip Supernaw out with an injury he suffered early during OTAs, Griffin has been on the field for plenty of snaps and has soaked it all in. The 6-6 tight end is competing to be the third tight end on the roster after Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham.
“I’m just trying to learn every day from the older guys – they’ve been here awhile,” Griffin said. “I’m just trying to take advantage of every rep I get and every opportunity I get.
“I know when I messed up, that’s for sure," a laughing Griffin said when asked about feedback he's received from the coaching staff. "…but other than that, they’re just coaching, they’re trying to correct my mistakes and I’m trying to be the best tight end I can be.”
Griffin also appreciated the coaching and tips from Daniels, a veteran and Pro Bowler and Graham, who's entering his fourth season.
“Just learning how to be a professional,” Griffin said. “It doesn’t even have to be on the field – it can be in the locker room, to be a team guy, put in the work in the classroom. I can only imagine getting to where OD [Owen Daniels] is right now. That’s my goal.”
But growing up in Londonderry, N.H., Griffin was a fan of the New England Patriots, so he has also learned by watching others he admired as a kid.
“I was a huge Drew Bledsoe fan and Ben Coates was their tight end way back, so I’ve seen some good ones in New England,” Griffin said. “But other than that, coming up through college, Anthony Fasano – I watched a lot of his tapes. So, I’m just trying to get some techniques down and watch these older guys.”
Some of the techniques Griffin has learned so far with the Texans have already helped him improve. And at 6-6, 256 pounds, he has the physical tools that excite the team.
“I’m a taller guy than they are,” Griffin said of the other Texans’ tight ends. “Coach (Brian) Pariani is used to working with 6-4 guys – he’s been great with them – and I’m a little bit taller, so that has its advantages, but at the same time, I have to keep my pad level low, my pads down and have quicker feet – things like that may come easier to them, but I just have to learn about that.”
Griffin’s basketball background has also helped his football technique. Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, the Chargers’ Antonio Gates and the Saints’ Jimmy Graham come to mind when thinking about former basketball stars who have transferred their hoops skills to the gridiron.
“A lot of it just translates to football – getting by people and boxing out,” Griffins said. “So, a lot like blocking, you have to keep your hips low and getting around 'backers and tight spaces.”
And Griffin knows blocking is always an area where he can improve.
“As a tight end you have to be able to catch the ball in today’s NFL, but at the same time the zone blocking here is huge,” Griffin said. “I’ve done a little bit at Connecticut – obviously, we’re a huge running team.”
When the Texans open training camp on July 26, Griffin will continue to get his chances to try to make the team. And if he does, it will mean a lot to him to be only the second player on an NFL roster from New Hampshire. Defensive tackle Kendall Reyes, who was a teammate of Griffin’s at Connecticut, was drafted by the Chargers in 2012.
“It’s a huge deal, especially because I’m really good friends with the other kid, Kendall Reyes in San Diego,” Griffin said. “We both went to school together and we were talking about these days when we were younger, when we were driving to school, so it’s pretty surreal to have the opportunity to join him, and I’ll see him the first game of the year hopefully.”