The Texans spent the 2019 NFL Draft selecting interesting developmental players. Tytus Howard is a mysterious exoplanet who exists in the shadows of the solar system. Max Scharping has to learn how to use his hands correctly and fix his pass set to stop turning and shielding. Lonnie Johnson Jr. is strength and length, but doesn’t know how to use it, and needs to figure how how to overwhelm receivers at the line of scrimmage and play the ball in the air. In the third round the Texans didn’t find a weekend project, a post divorce All-American red muscle car, a picnic table that will never be sealed and painted, orange ceilings are going to remain popcorned forever. Kahale Warring will walk in, and play right now, right away.
In the Mountain West Conference Warring was an overwhelming athlete. This is important. When watching players from smaller conferences, they have to jump off the screen, and appear different than their peers. Warring is this. Unlike some tight ends that groan and ache off the line of scrimmage, Warring was a sling shot as he sprinted past the second level of the defense. He jumps off the line from a two point stance, finds a hole in the zone, and comes back to the quarterback. Six yards on second and ten from a tight end is refreshing.
Warring scorched linebackers who were stuck trying to cover him. He could run around their jam, unfazed, thanks to a ridiculous size, strength, and speed combination. At the top of his route he’d lose linebackers once he made his break. He exemplifies the old adage that depicts the importance of tight ends. He’s too fast for linebackers, and too strong for defensive backs. Off the play action he teleports around an inept jab and snags the corner route.
Play action off the jet sweep, hmmmm, looks like something the Houston Texans would run. Warring is lined up on the right side of the line of scrimmage in a two point stance against the sweatpantsuit linebacker in man coverage. This is a perfect wheel route. Warring gets wide to create space then utilizes his speed to separate from the linebacker. When he turns and runs he loses the linebacker. There’s nothing worse than a pass catcher who can’t catch and routinely allows the ball to come into his chest. Warring yanks up, high points the ball in a crowd of three, makes the catch, and backs his way into the endzone.
He’s not one of those flimsy tight ends who can only line up in the slot, or acts like he run blocks. Warring can play in the slot, tight on the line, in a two or three point stance, and as a flex wing. He isn’t just straight line speed either. There’s burst out of his break. This is a great out route out of a three point stance. It’s spectacular to see a route like this that isn’t tackled for a two yard gain and followed immediately by a punt.
This is a corner route with his hand in the ground. He sells the post well, gets the defender scurrying inside, and he absolutely loses him out of his break. OH BABY. It’s 2003 again and I’m watching ESPN2 at three o’clock on an August night. The windows are open. The screens fell off a long time ago. Keep hammering my pounding heart in the still sticky ceiling fan chilled air.
The play doesn’t end once the ball is caught either. Did you know THAT yards can be obtained after the catch. Warring is a piece of modern literature and is difficult to tackle. This is another corner route off of play action. He nearly accelerates to top speed immediately and comes into the linebacker’s jam. The linebacker doesn’t take Warring on head on, but only half of him, leaving him tattered and in shreds, hanging on to the door of a runaway van. Warring punches his jam, sheds him, and breaks in the same movement. The ball is caught near the sideline and away from the chasing safety. He cuts back inside and slices across the pursuing safety and the same linebacker from earlier. All of this goes for a total of 25 yards.
Here’s Warring picking up yards after the catch again, but this time it’s from the slot. Warring is the ‘Y’ receiver. The bunch creates confusion and he releases unhindered. He curls back to the quarterback and sits wide open in the center of the field. From a full stop Warring blasts off with blood squirting to the ceiling, uses the ref to run a rub for him, and out runs three defenders to the sideline. Stop and start speed like this is rare to see from a tight end, especially one who is 6’5” 252 pounds.
The versatility doesn’t stop there. Warring lines up all over the formation, and he can block as well. Shocking. Unbelievable. A tight end who can both block and catch passes. Incredible. As a blocker Warring is better than most tight ends. He has the strength to block linebackers, overwhelm safeties, but like most tight ends, he has trouble against defensive ends.
In the redzone Boise State pulls their playside outside linebacker down to defensive end. He’s matched up across from Warring in case of playaction. Warring doesn’t have any help. It’s a one v. one block in the redzone. He takes a perfect slide step left to devour the defender, and hits him square on. The Aztecs are running lead. Warring has to create a stalemate. As long as he isn’t driven back, or falls off the block, it’s a success. He’s low, explodes, and strangles the chest. He seals the edge, microwaves the potato, and the back cuts around him to score.
As a blocker, the two best components of Warring’s game are his explosion off the line and his hands. His three point stance is extremely low. He is practically power cleaning the defender when he creates contact. His punch is always on the numbers. He’s grasping and isn’t shoving, and maintains control of his blocks as a result. As a run blocker, he’s more refined than the offensive tackles Houston selected ahead of him.
This is a short yardage lead play where Warring is once again blocking the defender on his own. This time he creates vertical movement. His pad level is lower than on the previous block and he gets under the defender’s skin. After contact is made, the defender is scooting backwards. Warring consumes the defender on this block, and creates an easy first down for the running back to run through.
This is an outside zone play to the right with the fullback leading the way and the back taking a quick pitch. Warring is lined up on the backside of the formation. Since the defensive end is lined up as a ‘5’, Warring and the left tackle have a power backside double team. The tackle can punch and provide power at the first level and wait for Warring to take over. He does this, turning the defensive end’s pads inside. Warring takes a deep zone step to overtake the block. It’s perfect. He arrives in time, fits in the perfect place, and walls the defensive end off from the play. Not even a sentient punch pitcher could smash through this wall.
These great run blocks set up his routes on play action. This is a similar play. Warring is on the backside. Except this time the defensive end is too far inside as a ‘4’, and flows too fast inside for him to help the tackle. Instead he takes his zone step, and cuts off the defender in front of him. Warring keeps his head inside, until he knows the playfake has been carried out, the timing here is immaculate, then he downshifts and allows the defender to over pursue. He sneaks back behind him, then takes off past the linebacker, wide open, for an easy walk in score—all set up by previous run blocks.
The big problem Warring has is blocking defensive ends on his own. This is an illness the majority of the tight end population deals with. Blocking 255 pounds is much different than blocking 290 pounds. Here Warring is the first tight end on the right. He is unable to get his head inside of the defensive end and cut him off. He misses. The end breaks through his block, bounces off the puller, and the play gains a little bit.
As good of a blocker Warring is, he can still get better technique wise. For whatever reason, bad hearing, lack of focus, delayed reaction, he gets off the snap later than he should. His pad level can be too high even though his strength can mask it against smaller defenders. And he can use more extension on his punch once he starts driving. These are all smaller issues that should be able to be worked out.
The Texans will also have make decisions regarding his development. Warring weighs 252 pounds. Houston could feed him until he adds about 10 pounds so he could potentially be able to block defensive ends. At his current size he’s going to struggle against these mammoths. If they do this, they’ll run the risk of him losing some of his burst, quickness, and top speed in the pursuit of making him a more well rounded player.
That’s all for the future though. For now, Warring is the best pick of the Texans’ 2019 class. He should be able to walk in right away as the team’s best tight end. Unlike the Jordan rookies, who are interesting pass catchers who struggle blocking, Warring is an all around player. Veteran Darren Fells is here to help pass protect. And incumbent starter Ryan Griffin has been put in some bad situations by Bill O’Brien, and could be on his way out. Warring should be able to make the difficult blocks previous Houston tight ends have been unable to make. All five players will fight for playing time and even roster spots in 2019, and Warring could be the one who ends up on the field the most. Even though it takes time for tight ends to learn both the run and pass game, Warring should be past all the potential and eventually’s. He’s a tight end who’s ready to play now.