The Texans tight ends group has a great deal of potential.
Veteran Ryan Griffin led the way in 2018 with 24 catches for 305 yards. Rookies Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins added a combined 37 receptions for 440 yards, with Thomas hauling in all four touchdowns from the tight end corps this season.
Each of the three has a unique skillset and body type, and head coach Bill O’Brien is excited about the growth opportunities for the duo that just completed year one as professionals.
“I really believe in those two guys,” O’Brien said. “Going through a rookie year at that position is hard. It’s totally different than, especially for both of them, the way that they were used in college, they weren’t asked to block.”
Learning on the fly, at the NFL-level no less, isn’t an easy task. Both Thomas and Akins started their college careers as pass-catchers…at the wide receiver position.
“Jordan Thomas was a wide receiver and then all of a sudden he walked into the building at Mississippi State and he was 275 pounds,” O’Brien said. “You aren’t going to be a wide receiver anymore. Jordan Akins lined up as a wide receiver a lot at UCF or in the slot.”
The challenge of learning how to be a better blocker was something the duo met head-on. They wound up improving at that facet of the game as the year wore on. Their position coach Tim Kelly, in mid-December, described how Thomas dealt with the move from receiver to tight end.
“It was all foreign to him in the beginning,” Kelly said. “He didn’t hesitate at all, he came in, worked hard and he works hard every day. So, proud of his work ethic and kind of the approach he takes every day.”
Kelly also explained then, how important it was to have Griffin’s leadership in the room.
“It’s been a great influence for those two players,” Kelly said. “Ryan’s a great pro. He comes in every day, does whatever we ask, prepares, works hard. He’s been a great leader in the room, and like I said, he’s been a good role model for those two.”
With a combined 61 receptions for 745 yards between the trio, they went for 12.2 yards per catch. That’s the highest average for a Texans tight ends group since the 2011 bunch went off for 13 yards per. They accounted for 17.9 percent of Deshaun Watson’s 4,165 passing yards, and the quarterback likes the three big targets.
“They do a good job of doing what their responsibilities are, being able to find open holes in zones in the defense, and they’re big targets,” Watson said in December. “You give them a chance to make a play and those guys can make plays. They’ve been doing a great job and improving each and every week.”
O’Brien thinks the best is yet to come, especially for the 2018 rookie tandem.
“I really do believe if they work hard in the offseason, they’ll make a big jump between their first and second year,” O’Brien said. “No doubt about it.”
The Texans are off until April 15, when they start the offseason workout program at NRG Stadium.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 5/20/2019)