In his first three years in the NFL, tight end Joel Dreessen just wanted a team he could call home. The New York Jets drafted Dreessen in the sixth round in 2005 and released him a year later. He did not sign with a team until the Texans picked him up early last year, only to cut him months later and then finally re-sign him in late September.
The tight end, however, made the most of his opportunities in Houston, catching two touchdown passes and making significant contributions on special teams.
"I wouldn't call it a breakout year," Dreessen said. "I basically did what I was coached to do in a nutshell. I felt good about it. I felt wanted again, and that was something I wanted to happen in my NFL career.
"I was happy to contribute any way I could in the two-tight end, three-tight end formation sets, as well as on special teams. I had so much fun and I feel like I played well. It was a good year, not quite a breakout year."
Dreessen felt wanted because the Texans counted on him to produce. When wide receivers Andre Johnson and Jacoby Jones went down with injuries, the offense turned to its tight ends to make catches.
Dreessen backed up starter Owen Daniels, who finished the season with 63 catches for 768 yards. Dreessen may not have compiled numbers on par with Daniels, but he proved himself as an effective blocker and opportunistic playmaker on offense.
"I think we are a better group because of Joel coming on the team last year," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "I think he's pushing OD every day and Mark (Bruener). I think he has the ability to do both (block and catch).
"You've got to be able to do both in this league. I think there is a point where you can have just a physical player on your team if the other two can do a little bit of both, which we are fortunate to do because Joel and Owen can do a little bit of both."
Dreessen believes that the league has placed a premium on versatile tight ends because they can help outsmart defenses.
"If you put a guy in the game and they are 70 percent more likely to run the ball, then it's not going to work," Dreessen said. "Essentially, you need guys who can do both – run routes, catch the ball as well as work their tails off in the blocking game."
Right now, the Texans are carrying four tight ends on their roster, including Daniels, Dreessen, Bruener and Ryan Krause. One player probably will not make the active roster in 2008. Bruener is entering his 14th season in the league and primarily sees action as a blocking tight end. Krause, a fourth-year pro, signed with the team as a free agent in May and can play on special teams.
"I think picking up Krause, we upgraded our football team," Kubiak said. "He can run, catch with the best of them. I think he has a chance to play some special teams, and that's what we were lacking a little bit with Jeb (Putzier) last year."
Kubiak will face some tough roster decisions as he heads into training camp. It helps Dreessen that he spent a year under Kubiak and is comfortable in the coach's system.
"In my first three years in the NFL, I played in three different offenses and for three different coaches," Dreessen said. "Now, I have the same offense and the same head coach, so just the nuances of every single play you know walking to the line of scrimmage. You say, 'I remember this,' and you remember more and more of each play. You can just make it a physical game instead of a mental game and you play that much faster. You really take over and feel a lot better about it."
If Dreessen can do just that during training camp, he probably will have found a home in Houston.