Vonta Leach is now a Baltimore Raven, which means the Texans are without an All-Pro fullback.
James Casey thinks he's ready to try to fill the void.
"I feel fine doing it," Casey said after Monday's morning practice. "I've done it before. I feel comfortable doing it and I've just got to go out there and prove that I can do it."
While Leach concussed linebackers in 2010 and helped clear the way for rushing champ Arian Foster, Casey bided his time as a reserve tight end as well as Leach's backup. He never started in the fullback role, but the Texans think Casey is capable.
"What we do is easy for James," head coach Gary Kubiak said on Monday. "There's no overload when it comes to the mental deal. It's going to be the physical part, naturally. There's some things we can do with James that maybe we didn't do with Vonta from some of James' strengths."
Casey, who caught eight passes for 93 yards last season, added 10 pounds of muscle this offseason in anticipation of having to play the new position. He was in various spots on the practice field Monday as the fullback, sometimes going out wide as a receiver, other times motioning back to a blocking spot behind quarterback Matt Schaub.
As a college standout at Rice, Casey played wide receiver, wildcat quarterback, tight end and even defensive end in a pinch. That athleticism and versatility isn't lost on Kubiak and the offensive coaching staff.
"Obviously, your wheels start spinning because you could be a little bit different offensive football team but yet teach the same schemes and those type of things," Kubiak said. "James is very athletic. He's a tight end with great hands, very athletic, smart, can handle a big load. He could give us some flexibility, but right now I want him to settle down, learn the position and we'll go from there."
Casey knows that Leach was supremely effective as a blocker in his time in Houston, and he embraces the challenge of living up to the man nicknamed the "Coke Machine." He's also quick to dismiss the notion that he might not have what it takes to be a tough blocker.
"I'm not some soft, weak guy," Casey said. "You've got to be a tough guy to play in the league, especially playing line-of-scrimmage and tight end and special teams stuff. Fullback is a little different because you have a running head start and sometimes you're one-on-one with the linebacker."
Casey's head coach at Rice, David Bailiff, echoed those thoughts, saying that "James is one of the toughest guys on the planet" and that nothing Casey does is a surprise.
It wouldn't surprise Schaub to see Casey succeed at the fullback position.
"(I'm) very confident in James," Schaub said. "He's a smart guy; knows what he's doing, works his tail off and he's a guy who can do a lot for us, whether it be at fullback or tight end.
"I don't worry about that too much because it's not just one guy leading the way through. The offensive line did a heck of a job, the receivers do a heck of a job blocking. The fullback position only plays so many snaps. There's a lot of snaps where we're not even with a fullback. I'm confident that we have the personnel that we have to get it done."