Training camp is well underway for the Houston Texans, and there are several battles going on between players for starting positions. One of these key positions getting a lot of attention is the battle at tight end. The Texans already had argueably the best blocking tight end in the NFL on the roster with Mark Bruener, but with the addition of Jeb Putzier following Kubiak over from Denver, Bennie Joppru finally active again, and rookie Owen Daniels all in line, this could be one of the most exciting positions to watch in the 2006 season.
Bruener (6-4, 260) has established his role in the Texans offensive scheme. He is a tremendous blocking tight end and has a great effect on the running game. Putzier (6-4, 256) has great hands and is impressing coaches with his receiving, combined with his blocking ability. Joppru (6-4, 240) was drafted by the Texans in the 2nd round of the 2003 NFL Draft, but has struggled with injury since then, making this his first year to show fans his quickness and receiving potential. Rookie Owen Daniels (6-3, 247) has demonstrated during camp how well he can catch the ball, but is working hard on improving his blocking skill.
Head coach Gary Kubiak has stated that the Texans' tight ends will play a big role in his offense. He already knows Jeb Putzier from his coaching days with the Broncos. When asked by Carmen Prione about Putzier becoming the leading man for the Texans, Kubiak responded saying "Jeb (Putzier) can stretch the field. He's very athletic and when you match up linebackers and safeties (with him), you feel like you have an advantage right there. He's helped all our tight ends move along the offense with just his presence. He has got to get better on the line of scrimmage to be a down-in, down-out player, and he knows that. I've been telling him that for four years, probably 12."
During a press conference held on Monday, Kubiak took the opportunity to comment on rookie Daniels as well. "I see a lot of ability," Kubiak said. "He's kind of up and down right now. He'll show you some days that he's ready to go, and he'll show you others that he's a rookie. He's a tough kid. He should be able to play on the line of scrimmage and catch the ball. Preseason will be interesting, because he will play a great deal."
Daniels isn't scared of a little competition either. He says he spends his nights in the team hotel studying his playbook and going over his coach's critiques while preparing for the next day's practice.
"Everyone's such great guys that we're not at each other's throats or like that. We are still helping each other out. It's good to have older guys like Mark (Bruener) and Jeb (Putzier) helping. If you have a question, they know exactly what's going on. Definitely some competition, but it makes everybody better."
Joppru is also excited about the competition, as well as the large role his position is going play this year, especially after being sidelined the past three seasons by injury.
"It definitely excites you," Joppru said. "It's always nice to catch a ball and get yourself motivated. It's also nice to block though, to move around and block from some different positions other than on the line."