With all the free agents the Houston Texans lost this offseason, one of the most important is Joel Dreessen. He's not mentioned nearly as often as Mario Williams or Eric Winston, but the Texans' players know how important he was to the offense.
When Dreessen left to play with Peyton Manning in Denver, it cost Houston one of their most reliable pass-catching targets. Owen Daniels for one knows just how important his fellow tight end was to the offense.
You guys know Joel (Dreessen) did everything around here; became one of the leaders of our team. You can’t say enough about what he did. He gets to go home and play for another good franchise. I know he was torn up about the decision he had to make. I think he did what’s best for him. Obviously, a guy’s got to do that.
There's a reason why many have speculated that Coby Fleener out of Stanford could be a first-round target for the Texans. Having those dual targets made a big difference in the way the Texans' passing attack stressed defenses. Barring a draft pickup, the Texans will turn to Garrett Graham to pick up the slack.
Daniels thinks he's up to it.
I think he's really chomping at the bit to get a real opportunity and get out there and play a lot. We use multiple tight ends a whole bunch. Garrett's going to get his chance to get out there and show what he's about and show that he can be a contributor more than he has been. I think he's excited about that opportunity...
I think he's more of an athletic guy than people think. He's got better wheels than people think and he's a really, really tough kid. I'm biased saying he's tough because he went to Wisconsin, but those type of players come out of there and we've got three really good ones on this team right now and Garrett's no exception. He's been kind of waiting in the wings, playing his role the last couple years, getting better preparing the defense, so now he gets his chance to hopefully get out and contribute a bunch more.
Graham has just one career reception, but could end up playing a big role in the 2012 offense. However, the pressure doesn't seem to bother him. He revels in the support of his teammates and knows that filling Dreessen's shoes won't be easy.
"I felt like it was an opportunity to step up and show what I can do [and] compete for the spot. That’s about it," said Graham. "Joel (Dreessen) did a lot for our team. He’s a great tight end, so I’m expecting to work my hardest and contribute and show what I can do in camp.”
Positivity aside, Graham will remain a major question mark for Houston until he proves his merit on the playing field.
If the Texans get the opportunity to take an elite receiving tight end in the draft, I don't see how they can pass it up. Even after Fleener, there are other options later in the second and third rounds. Whether it's Dwayne Allen, Orson Charles or Ladarius Green, there are many potential options for Day 2.
Nice words can build up a player's confidence, but we won't know what the Texans really think about Graham's ability to be a front-line player until after the draft.
Quotes courtesy of the Houston Texans as shared with Bleacher Report.