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Your Texans: Tight ends


It's the three-headed monster at tight end for the Texans. It's the Owen-Jeb-Mark interchangeable weapon that can do all things on the field.

Few teams have a better set of three tight ends than Houston, which has talented second-year man Owen Daniels starting with sixth-year player Jeb Putzier and 13-year veteran Mark Bruener all seeing playing time. They each are a part of a tight end picture that is one of the team's strong points.

"It's good," coach Gary Kubiak said of the tight end situation. "You know what their strength is, so you basically have to work your offense around their strengths.

"You try to get Jeb more involved in the passing game. Owen can do both and Bruener's more the physical player. So it's a challenge for you as coaches and the biggest challenge is Sunday getting the personnel exactly the way you want it in a game so you don't put a player in a vulnerable position."

Daniels knows his versatility won him the starting role last year. As a rookie, he started 12 games and caught 34 passes for 350 yards and five touchdowns. Those are impressive statistics for most rookies, but Daniels was unhappy with his production the last half of the season.

Daniels caught all five scores the first seven games, including two in the seventh game against the Titans. He hopes to improve on that this season.

"I just want to be more consistent," Daniels said. "I think I played well for the first half of the season last year. I did some good things in the second half, but the numbers weren't there.

"It had something to do with me. It had something to do with our offense just not producing as well. But I just want to be more consistent through the year and to be a player people count on."

Daniels surprised many by starting over two solid veterans much of last year. He admits he was learning much of that time and he feels he should improve this year.

"Being here for the second year is a huge thing," he said. "I know my place on the team now. I wasn't sure about that last year. I know the offense a lot better now. I'm not learning it on the run any more.

"On top of that, it's a great new bunch of guys with the quarterback and running back. We have some good leaders who've really stepped up and are making things a lot better."

Putzier, who came over from Denver last year, started twice in 2006 for Kubiak, who was his offensive coordinator with the Broncos. Putzier caught 13 passes for 126 yards and hopes to be more involved in the offense this year.

{QUOTE}In the preseason, it looks like he might be more involved after catching a touchdown pass in the Texans' first game against Chicago and totaling six catches for 74 yards the first two preseason contests.

Putzier likes the new emphasis on passing and getting the ball to the tight ends.

"The thing about (the tight ends), we help the other positions as much as they help us," Putzier said. "We really help to spread this offense against defenses. I think we're going to be great this year.

"I think this offense is so talented and we have a lot of guys working for each other now and understanding the offense. I think with the talent we have we're just going to help everyone in this offense bloom into a better offense this year."

Putzier thinks the Texans' offense will be much improved.

"The steps that we have taken this year have been tremendous," he said. "Last year, we didn't have a lot of things going for us. Now I feel more confident each practice on how we're practicing.

"We're more efficient. We're getting things done. We're working better as an offensive group. Now we're just going to have to learn how to finish each of those drives because we obviously left points out there that we should have gotten. We're a hundred times better than we were last year."

Bruener is the 35-year-old veteran who is known for his blocking after nine seasons as one of the league's better blocking tight ends with Pittsburgh. Bruener readily admits his strength is blocking.

"That is correct," he said. "We had some great running backs when I was in Pittsburgh and we have some great running backs now. I hope to be a solid contributor to the running game and a few passes my way might be nice to get to keep the defenses on their toes.

"I really embrace the blocking role. That's something I was accustomed to in Pittsburgh and I really enjoy that aspect of it. I know we're going to have a number of games with rushers over a hundred yards this year.

"The good teams are the ones that can run the football and that helps set up the pass and I hope to be a contributor to that."

Bruener knows he has other values to the team.

"First of all, I see myself as a team leader," Bruener said, "a leader in the locker room who tries to help motivate and convince the young guys just how great this game is and to encourage them to work continually hard.

"And to be a leader on the field. To be a guy who the quarterback can count on, that the offensive line can count on as far as doing my job and not letting my guy make a play. I look forward to my role in the offense."

The Texans look forward to all three of their tight ends playing a major role on the offense this year.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.

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