Houston Texans offense has improved with the gradual improvement of their group of tight ends.
Houston Texans were forced to hit the reset button when their 2014 third-round draft choice, C.J. Fiedorowicz, was becoming more prone to concussions. Despite his limitations in the passing game, he served an instrumental role in creating run lanes for running backs and helping the offensive line in pass protection. Fiedorowicz was fundamentally sound as a blocker, but he struggled to jumpstart the offense in the passing game and failed to become a difference maker in the end zone.
Ryan Griffin, who has also been limited with injuries, played less than half of the 2017 season and had 13 receptions for 158 receiving yards and a touchdown. The reserve tight end, Stephen Anderson, wasn’t able to capitalize when given the time to play with injuries at his position. He had 25 receptions for 342 yards and a touchdown.
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Unfortunate injuries and mediocre production at the tight end position led the Texans to renovate the group. Fiedorowicz rightfully retired and Anderson was waived to make room for Texans new draft picks, Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas. Thomas has been quite a find after being drafted sixth round in the 2018 NFL Draft. Through nine games, he has three touchdown receptions and has become a threat to score in the red zone, the area where the team had struggled in the early part of the season.
Thomas three touchdowns are more than the entire group had last season. He is currently has nine receptions for 127 passing yards and is averaging an impressive 14.1 yards per catch. Thomas has shown the knack to make good catches and has been a game changer for the tight ends in the passing game. He moves well for a man his size and having hands the size of plates certainly doesn’t hurt his cause. Thomas’ hands were measured in NFL Combine to be 11 5/8”, those hand measurements are bigger than most players on his team and arguably at his position.
Granted, he is nowhere near as polished as Fiedorowicz as a blocker, but he has been able to use his raw strength to slow the pass rush at the line of scrimmage. Thomas knocked Pro Bowl outside linebacker Von Miller to the floor with a simple push and proceeded to run his route. That simple block created enough time for Deshaun Watson to make his progressions down the field and find DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown.
Head coach Bill O’Brien has continued to incorporate running backs and tight ends in the teams’ pass protection concepts to keep Watson upright and buy him more time to stay in the pocket and make plays. As long as Thomas is able to help contribute to touchdown plays, he’ll continue to see more time on the field.
Thomas has a long way to go as he continues to develop as a football player, but he has impressed in his first season as a Texan, and he has brought a special element to the tight end group that they didn’t have before in the red zone.