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Things That Excite Me: James Casey Edition


Sometimes in life, you can get really excited about an idea, but it just doesn't materialize the way you envisioned it.

Common examples from my past are most dates I went on when I was single. Other examples may include movies that got too much hype, vacations that got ruined by the weather (or by the people you vacationed with), or the vast majority of Texans football games prior to 2011.

The most relevant example to this season is James Casey. Last year, after the New Orleans game, I wrote the following in regards to Casey.

James Casey currently ranks 6th in DYAR and 4th in DVOA...for tight ends. It's pretty safe to say that he's the highest ranked fullback on that list. Advanced NFL Stats doesn't even rank him because they don't list him as a fullback or a running back. OK, yes it's a small sample size and he's unlikely to have 126 receiving yards again any time soon, but many Texans fans knew this was coming (maybe not 126 yards, but we knew that he was going to be a major threat in the passing game), so it's also likely that he'll continue some solid production.

Sadly, shortly after I wrote that, an injury forced Casey to miss a significant amount of time. When he returned, he clearly wasn't himself and didn't register a particularly memorable game outside of the final contest against Tennessee.

Sometimes, though, you can be fortunate enough to get a second chance on these moments (generally not the case with respect to my dates), and I, for one, am buying low on all the James Casey stock I can get my hands on.

On a side note, wouldn't it be absolutely awesome if you could buy and sell player performance on the stock market? I would be absolutely be buying on James Casey and selling on Arian Foster (not that I don't think Foster would be awesome, but his stock can't go much higher and I would have bought it two years ago for pennies).

Back to Casey...we all know that he has a very uncommon combination of talents. He's got fullback size, receiver hands, and coach intelligence.

One of the ways that I like to evaluate young players (and, even though he's in his fourth year, from a playing time perspective, I still consider Casey "young"), is as follows: do they show you glimpses of brilliance before they show you consistency?

In other words, the ultimate end game that you're looking for in all players is a high level of play that is on display consistently. It takes time to develop that, though, so before that, I at least want to see the occasional glimpse that they have the ability to make big plays.

It's this line of thinking that ultimately turned me away from the Amobi Okoye camp and that has me concerned with Kareem Jackson. With Casey, however, there are more than a few. The fact that they come from the fullback position, though, excites me to no end.

Let me start by giving you two examples from the passing game. Before he got hurt last year, Casey had a huge game in New Orleans (5 rec/126 yds), with the highlight being a 26-yard diving touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter. Then this preseason, he had a brilliant reception against the 49ers on a 3rd and 2 where he dove back towards the line of scrimmage to catch the ball and then put a nice series of moves on the defender before diving for the first down.

How many fullbacks can do that? This gets more exciting when you consider that he'll almost always be matched up against a linebacker. It gets even MORE exciting if you think about the playcalling options (my favorite is the play-action pass where Casey busts through the line and hits a linebacker on the fake before rolling out for a wide open reception).

Still, while Casey's receiving prowess alone is nice, it's not enough to get me excited (he simply won't rack up enough receptions). Where I do get excited is when you combine that prowess with what he's shown as a blocking fullback.

In that same 49ers game a couple of weeks ago, on Arian Foster's long run, Casey was the lead blocker. Casey started out right and took on one defender before cutting back up-field and taking out a linebacker. This double block showed more agility than you'll find out of your average fullback and was key in springing Foster for 24 yards.

Then, in the last game against New Orleans, Casey had a great lead block on Foster's touchdown run. These blocks weren't of the Vonta Leach KTFO Award variety, but they were effective and showed his agility and vision.

It's unlikely that Casey will make too many SportsCenter highlights or garner rave reviews on Monday Morning Quarterback. He probably won't make the Pro Bowl or be ranked as one of the top 5 most indispensable players on this team.

Yet James Casey is the type of player that quality teams always seem to have. If he can stay healthy (isn't that kind of a disclaimer for everyone?), Casey can be the difference maker between a great season and a truly memorable one.