*Leading up to the regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 11, we'll be profiling each position group on the 2011 Texans. Each article will contain excerpts from the 2011 Houston Texans Yearbook, the team's official season preview magazine that is on sale now at the Go Texan Store at Reliant Stadium and online right here.
Lineup: Owen Daniels (starter), Joel Dreessen, Garrett Graham
New arrivals: None
Departures: James Casey (position change), Anthony Hill (released)
Daniels is fully healthy after tearing his ACL in 2009 and missing five games with a hamstring injury last season. He'll partner with Dreessen, who has played at a starter level for the last two years, to give the Texans a potent tight end tandem.
Daniels, Dreessen and Casey combined for 82 catches, 1,087 yards and six touchdowns in 2010, the best season for tight ends in team history. The Texans ranked fourth among all AFC teams in yards by tight ends.
"One of the big strengths of our football team is our versatility at the tight end position with Owen and Joel and James, and of course you've got a young player now in Garrett," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said this offseason.
Daniels had 38 catches for 471 yards and two touchdowns last season, including 22 catches for 271 yards in the final four games. The Texans re-signed him to a multi-year contract before the lockout in March. A Pro Bowler in 2008, Daniels was on pace for 89 catches, 1,136 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009 before he was injured eight games into the season.
Dreessen had career-highs in catches (36), yards (518) and touchdowns (four) in 2010. He led the Texans with 14.4 yards per catch, ranking fifth among all tight ends. He also was voted by his teammates as the Texans' 2010 Ed Block Courage Award winner after overcoming offseason surgery on his right labrum and rotator-cuff.
Graham is entering his second season out of Wisconsin. The former fourth-round pick played in six games as a rookie, primarily on special teams. Casey switched to fullback but could still be used as a tight end at times as well.
TEs coach Brian Pariani on Daniels: "We're hoping to get back a player that obviously can help this offense get better than it's been in the last two years. He's been on and off the last two seasons from his injuries and stuff like that, but when he played at the end of last season, he definitely brought another spark to what we were trying to do in the passing game. I think the more you play the position and the better you get, you begin to have an awareness of what a defender's going to do or what a defense is going to do. I think he has a great feel for that. He has a great feel for how to set people up on his routes. He's definitely got great hands and he's a clutch receiver. We think with him and Joel (Dreessen) coming back and James (Casey) and Garrett (Graham) playing, we've got a chance to be pretty productive this coming season."