Next Man Up: Garrett Graham
Patrick D. Starr
With the Houston Texans making some tough decisions, the NFL waits for nobody and the Texans are adjusting on the fly. After a magical 2011 season which brought the franchise's first division title, playoff appearance and win, the Texans appeared ready for a big 2012 season with a deep roster. With the cap issues that hit the Texans, a once deep roster has to fill the voids left by players who left for other teams via free agency.
Joel Dreessen signed with the Denver Broncos and this opened a big hole for what seemed like a deep tight end position group for the Texans. Being the best blocker of the group, Dreessen took advantage of Peyton Manning going to Denver, and ended up going back to his old stomping grounds in Colorado to be a potential weapon for the new look Broncos.
With Dreessen leaving, the Texans will call upon 3rd year tightend Garrett Graham to pick up where Dreessen left off. At 6'3" and 240 lbs., Graham's time for the Texans has been limited due to being buried on the depth chart behind Owen Daniels, James Casey and Dreessen. Now with spots open ahead of him, the former Wisconsin Badger can make his name known for the upcoming 2012 season.
Drafted in 2010 in the 4th round (118th overall), Graham will have to prove that he can succeed at blocking efficiently in the Texans' zone scheme. Coming out of Wisconsin, he was a pass catching threat, excelled at reading defenses, and questions about his run blocking skills came into question mostly because of his overall strength. It appears Graham might be an Owen Daniels "lite", but he will have the first shot at filling the void as the Texans second tightend. It will be interesting to see what the Texans do with James Casey, but either way Graham's snaps on offense will increase dramatically. He will have to take the place of the tightend that will be in Daniels shadow, because when Daniels is on he is a viable option in the Texans offense. It seems like Graham might be more of a pass catching threat than Dreessen, but the learning curve is what should be taken notice. He will have to jump in and prevent a dramatic fall off in the run blocking that the Texans' offensive line and tightends displayed in 2011.
He has learned the system for two full seasons and it could be looked at like his redshirt years. Practicing and learning from veterans in front of him probably gave Graham some time to develop mentally but most importantly his overall strength should have increased since his college days. It is hard to project on what exactly Graham is right now or what he could be with his limited offensive snaps the past two seasons. One thing is for sure, despite all of the cost cutting cuts, Graham is still a part of the Texans future plans as of now.
With 13 games played in two full seasons with the Texans, Graham's only catch came from the arm of Jake Delhomme in a week 17 loss to the Tennessee Titans this past season. There are many question marks on if Graham is going to be the best option going forward, but Graham should be a part of this team heading into the 2012 season. It should be his position to lose, and it will be players like Graham that will help make a difference in the new look Texans roster in 2012.