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By the time the regular season begins in September, the Texans are hopeful to have star TE Owen Daniels back in the lineup, and they also could have well-prepared backups behind him on the depth chart. While Daniels works his way back from a November knee injury, rookie TE Garrett Graham and second-year pro James Casey have received a lot of work in organized team activities.
Casey, who has received practice repetitions with the first-team offense in OTAs, has worked to get stronger in the offseason, Texans TEs coach Brian Pariani told PFW last week. An accomplished pass catcher at Rice, Casey proved a solid blocker as a rookie, Pariani said. Graham's progress as a blocker can't be gauged until the Texans are in training camp, Pariani said, but he noted that "judging the competitiveness of (Graham), you see there's a willingness to do those things."
Graham, who caught 51 passes for 624 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior at Wisconsin, has a good understanding of the game, Pariani said, which helps as the Texans try to get him up to speed quickly.
"He's getting a great opportunity," he said.
Besides Daniels, TEs Joel Dreessen (ankle and shoulder surgery) and Anthony Hill (knee surgery) are also coming back from injuries. Dreessen has received some reps in seven-on-seven drills at OTAs, Pariani said. Hill is expected to miss training camp, and head coach Gary Kubiak has indicated Hill might not be ready until the start of the season.
In late May, Kubiak told Houston reporters that Daniels' recovery was "way ahead of schedule," and Pariani reports Daniels, expected to he held out of training camp, has been working hard to return to the field. Pariani, who has coached Daniels throughout his NFL career, said that Daniels has been a more vocal leader in the offseason and has assisted Casey and Graham in their development.
"He knows he has to be the leader of the group, both mentally and physically," Pariani said of Daniels.
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