Houston Texans’ tight ends are the key component for them to be able to diversify the running and passing game.
The Houston Texans offense has only targeted their tight ends a small percentage of the time this season. Out of Deshaun Watson’s 125 passes that he has completed through five games, the tight ends have only been responsible for 22 of those receptions for a total of 314 yards. Those numbers will not suffice if the offense is expected to continue to take the next step in Watson’s second season in the NFL.
Ryan Griffin has 10 receptions for 140 yards, he is averaging a respectable 14 yards per catch to lead the Texans at the tight end spot. Meanwhile rookie tight ends Jordan Akins has eight receptions for 83 yards, an average of 10.4 yards per reception, and Jordan Thomas has four receptions for 91 yards and an average of 22.8 yards per reception. There aren’t enough capable linebackers in the league that can cover good pass-catching tight ends.
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The Texans have two of those in Akins and Thomas, they are simply a hybrid and too big to be a normal wide receiver. Akins and Thomas present the team with invaluable athleticism at that position where they can create mismatches in the passing game.
Putting a smaller and faster safety on one of them and then you have to worry about the size disadvantage that presents itself in the matchup, a good tight end can simply box out the defender and extend their long arms for a pass completion.
Houston has been struggling to establish a rapport with the tight ends and distribute the football to them after the first quarter of the NFL season. The biggest flaw in this position group is their inexperience and their run blocking. Akins and Thomas have shown the willingness to block but they’re still making the transition to having to deal with edge rushers in the NFL. They’re truly missing that Y-tight end that they had in C.J. Fiedorowicz last season.
However, the value they offer in the passing game shouldn’t be overlooked. They should warrant a bigger role in their game plan because they’re valuable in this day and age. With the NFL focusing on drafting bigger better athletes, there aren’t enough defenders in the league that can defend those guys. With all the attention the wide receivers demand in this offense, they’re primed to get good looks on passing downs.
Griffin’s performance vs. the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5 is an encouraging sign since he was able to match up well versus their athletic linebackers and give Watson a safety net in the middle of the field.
The Texans will need their tight ends to continue to assert themselves in the passing game since their presence can be invaluable in the red zone where space tightens and physicality wins over speed. Tight end will be a position that can make or break Texans season, whether they make the leap will determine how they fare in competitive games versus good secondaries.