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Year in Review: Tight ends


Almost every Texans' offensive unit endured devastating injuries during the 2007 season. The tight ends were a shining exception.

Led by second-year pro Owen Daniels, the tight ends stepped up to make clutch catches when receivers went down. Daniels finished second on the team with 63 catches and third in receiving yards with 768. The 2006 fourth-round draft pick ranked sixth among NFL tight ends in both receptions and yards.

As a group, the tight ends put up solid blocks for an array of rushers. They were a beacon of consistency when wideouts, running backs, offensive linemen and a quarterback were all forced to the sidelines.

Consistency comes first
After recording five touchdowns in his rookie season, Daniels earned first-team honors in 2007, starting all 16 games. Through Week 4, Daniels averaged almost 50 receiving yards a game. He worked the middle of the field and could be counted on to pick up first downs.

The team, however, needed even more production from Daniels with Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson nursing a sprained left knee.

In the Texans' 22-19 win over Miami, Daniels delivered, leading all receivers with six catches for a season-high 96 yards. His late fourth-quarter receptions helped get Houston in position for kicker Kris Brown's game-winning field goal.

After the victory, head coach Gary Kubiak said the tight end had proved himself as an offensive leader.

"He told me, 'Give me the ball,'" Kubiak said. "He's never said that to me. He's only been here two years, but he makes two big plays in the last drive and has a lot of confidence."

Daniels followed that game with a solid five-catch, 79-yard performance in Jacksonville.

Strong supporting cast
At midseason, Daniels showed signs of fatigue. During a three-game span starting in Week 7, his receiving yardage dropped to an average of 32 yards per game.

{QUOTE}Luckily, he had four tights ends to provide support.

Mark Bruener, who returned for his fourth season in Houston, reaffirmed his status as one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL. The 13-year veteran served as a vital cog in the running game, which began to gain momentum in late October.

Six-year pro Jeb Putzier added depth and versatility. Putzier's season highlight came in Week 7 against Tennessee when he caught a seven-yard touchdown pass to keep the Texans in the game.

Rounding out the group was Joel Dreessen, who emerged as a surprise talent and a terrific compliment to Daniels as a receiver. Dreessen, who had been released by the team in early September and then re-signed weeks later, grabbed his first career touchdown catch on a 28-yard pass in Week 8 against San Diego.

And Dreessen was quick to get his second score. In Week 11, the second-year pro caught a 10-yard touchdown pass in the team's 23-10 win over New Orleans.

"We support one another, the tight end group, so we're all happy for each other no matter who's catching the passes or who's making pancake blocks," said Dreessen, who finished the season with two touchdowns and 11 solo special teams tackles. "We all support each other."

Daniels to the house
It didn't take long for Daniels to return to the spotlight. In a gritty effort against the Saints, the tight end broke his nose on the Texans' first drive of the game, but returned to inspire his team and total five catches for 74 yards.

"O.D. is a tough son of a gun," Dreessen said of his teammate. "He got his nose shattered, he's all plugged up and he goes back out there. I admire the heck out of him."

The following week in Cleveland, Daniels led the Texans with seven receptions for 82 yards, including a six-yard touchdown that was his first of the season.

Once Daniels set foot in the end zone, he made sure to go back. In a 28-14 win over Tampa Bay, he grabbed a nine-yard touchdown catch. Daniels finished the season with a two-yard touchdown reception in the Texans' 42-28 blowout over Jacksonville.

Daniels' outstanding finish and his teammates' contributions did not go unnoticed by the Texans' head coach.

"Owen, as you all know, has been a fine player for us all season long," Kubiak said. "I think that Dreessen is turning into a fine player. I think we have a bright future with him. Bruener is our guy that does all the dirty work for us. As a group, I think they played well."

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