Through seven games, Owen Daniels led all NFL tight ends in receiving yards (497) and ranked second in receptions (39) and touchdowns (5).
The Texans started the 2009 season with a surplus of tight ends after drafting Anthony Hill and James Casey in April. By season's end, Casey and Joel Dreessen were the only healthy tight ends left on the roster. A season-ending injury to Owen Daniels in Week 8 dealt a major blow to the Texans' offense, but the team's tight ends combined for 73 catches, 912 receiving yards and six touchdowns on the season.
SEASON IN REVIEW: TIGHT ENDS
Position coach:Brian Pariani (19th season, 4th with Texans)
Week 1 starter:Owen Daniels
Week 17 starter:Joel Dreessen
Key injuries:Daniels (torn ACL, Week 8); Anthony Hill (torn ACL, Week 14)
By the numbers (top statistical performers):Daniels (40 catches, 519 yards, 5 TDs); Dreessen (26 catches, 320 yards, 1 TD)
Season overview:Coming off of his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2008, Daniels got off to the best start of his career in 2009. Through seven games, he led all NFL tight ends in receiving yards (497) and ranked second in receptions (39) and touchdowns (5). He was on pace for 89 catches, 1,136 yards and 11 touchdowns.
But Daniels' season ended at Buffalo when he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee while running a route in the first quarter. That vaulted Dreessen, a fourth-year pro, into the starting lineup. Dreessen started 11 games on the season and more than doubled his career totals in receptions and yards.
Dreessen was the Texans' long snapper and a standout special teams player for the first 13 games of the season. He was relieved of special teams duty for the final three games because of a shoulder injury and the Texans' limited depth at tight end. Dreessen responded by setting a new career high in receiving yards in each of those three games, capped by a six-catch, 81-yard performance in the season finale.
Casey, a fifth-round draft pick from Rice, had six catches for 64 yards on the season. He played in 15 games, missing the Week 9 contest at Indianapolis because of arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The versatile rookie also spent time at fullback and on special teams.
Hill, a fourth-round draft pick out of North Carolina State, played in five games and had one catch for nine yards. He was diagnosed with the swine flu in early October, becoming the first NFL player to contract the virus.
2010 outlook:If there is no new collective bargaining agreement in place in 2010, Daniels will be a restricted free agent for the second consecutive offseason. He signed a one-year tender offer in 2009 after he and the team were unable to agree on a long-term contract.
Daniels said after the season that his focus is on getting healthy. He has been on a rigorous rehab program since suffering his injury, which was similar to ACL injuries to his left knee that he recovered from in high school and college.
"I'll be myself, if not better," Daniels said of his expectations for next season. "That's the way it goes after ACLs. You tend to be a little stronger than you were before you got hurt. That's how it's been for me in the past, and I expect nothing different."
Hill faces a long road in his recovery, but Kubiak said after the season that he likes Casey's future and would like to settle him down at one position. Dreessen heads into next season with extensive starting experience under his belt. The tight end position could once again be one of the deepest on the Texans' roster in 2010.