I’m looking at and thinking about the Texans’ roster right now, and right now the biggest component comprising it that stands out is...oh man, this tight end group is awful.
Currently, the Texans have seven tight ends on the roster. Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Griffin, Matt Lengel, MyCole Pruitt, and Jevoni Robinson. Two of these players are recently drafted rookies. Akins is 26 years old and was a junior playing junior varsity football at the University of Central Florida. Thomas is tall and can run fast in a straight line. Anderson led the Texans’ tight ends in catches last season with 25 on 52 targets…that’s a catch rate of 48.1%. Griffin is still here after Garrett Graham anointed him as the next Texans’ tight end that still manages to hang around every year. Matt Lengel is tall, shaves his head, and has two more career catches than you, unless you are a person who has in fact caught three passes in the NFL, which means you have more catches than Lengel. Pruitt is a former fifth round pick, in his second year in the league, and has one less catch than Lengel. Robinson is a power forward who is trying to continue to play professional sports, this time playing a different game.
The best tight end on the team is Anderson. He can’t block and struggles in the red zone, but he at least has some athleticism. Griffin can’t block and doesn’t have the athleticism to be a focal part of the passing game; he had a DVOA of -22.9% in 2016, his most productive NFL season, when he caught 50 passes. The rest of the players on the TE depth chart are all pizza crusts at the bottom of the dumpster or unknown rookies.
One of the fun notions when Bill O’Brien became the head coach of the Texans was that tight end would be a position of importance. When O’Brien was in New England, he coached the Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez duo. Once OB arrived in Houston, the Texans re-signed Graham and selected C.J. Fiedorowicz in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Graham lasted two seasons before being released by Houston and was released again by Denver. Fiedorowicz sadly retired a couple months ago because of concussion issues and was never consistently productive in the NFL anyways. All the tight end position in Houston has done under O’Brien is run into the flat and catch four yard passes or close their eyes and miss seam routes. This position group has amassed 277 catches on 482 targets for 2,820 yards, which comes out to 5.85 yards an attempt or 10.18 yards a reception. Tight ends have been an inefficient safety blanket since O’Brien came to Houston. Now, in year five, after a contract extension for O’Brien, the tight end position is the most barren and little invested position on the roster.
Entering this season, it seems like what’s on the roster is likely what the Texans will enter the regular season with. The free agents available are creaky veterans like Marcedes Lewis and Anthony Fastano, cremains left over from a lackluster group of free agents to begin with. Unless someone jumps out of nowhere, it’s safe to assume the tight end position is (1) going to be bad and (2) be unimportant.
The pass-catching tight ends on the Texans’ roster can’t block, and the Texans like to use six OL sets in short yardage situations to make up for it. On passing downs, they’ll probably go with 1-0-4 personnel to spread things out and get their best players on the field, allowing Deshaun Watson to try and replicate last year’s magic. Lamar Miller is also a very good receiver and is a better checkdown option than throwing it to Griffin in the flat.
The Texans’ tight end group is a disaster, but in the end, it probably doesn’t matter for the team’s outlook in 2018.