The Houston Texans’ top tight end, Jordan Akins, suffered a concussion against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4 and hasn’t seen the field since. To make matters worse, Akins also suffered a high ankle sprain in the same game. Akins, currently carrying a 72.4 overall PFF grade with a 75.0 pass catching grade and a 77.0 in pass blocking, is a key piece in the success of Houston franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. So far in 2020, Akins has caught 14 passes on 15 targets for 168 yards, 8 1st downs, and 1 touchdown. His pass blocking ability is an even bigger asset, as the Houston offensive line still has a long way to go to equal the prowess of the man they protect. Getting Akins back on the field sooner rather than later would provide a much needed shot in the arm for the passing game.
One ray of sunshine: Akins is no longer on the injury report for the concussion, just the high ankle sprain. The down side is high ankle sprains can turn into those nagging sorts of injuries that adversely affect a player for an entire season.
In Akins’ place, veteran Darren Fells has stepped in, continuing what he started in 2019. Fells, carrying a 74.5 PFF overall grade with a 73.2 in pass catching, does provide an outlet for Watson. However, his pass blocking is clearly not at Akins’ level, rating a paltry 59.6. Fells currently has 14 catches on 19 targets for 205 yards, 10 1st downs, and 3 touchdowns. Not too shabby for a TE2.
Houston certainly has a target rich environment for strong-armed Deshaun Watson to strike with his 81.5 rated throwing ability. With players such as Will Fuller V, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Fells, Akins, David Johnson, Kenny Stills and Duke Johnson all having caught five or more passes this season, finding an open receiver hasn’t been an issue. Giving Watson the time to find them is a different story, and one where the loss of Akins is truly felt. Strangely enough, it’s hard to quantify the negative impact Akins’ absence has had on Houston’s passing game, however, since the two games the Texans have played without him were games post-Bill O’Brien, who clearly muzzled the offense dramatically. For example, in Bill O’Brien run games this season, Deshaun Watson completed 65.73% of his passes, averaging 273 yards per game. Since O’Brien’s departure, Watson has completed 73.55% of his passes and gained an average of 347 passing yards per game. It’s hard not to think Akins would add even more to those numbers.
Either way, Deshaun Watson and the Texans will soldier on this weekend against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers without Akins. Hopefully Akins will return after the bye for the November 8th game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.