Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Owen Daniels has proved a very effective piece of a very productive offense.
Now can he be part of the cure for one of the Houston Texans' biggest ills?
The third-ranked offense in the NFL scored a touchdown only 45.9 percent of the time it crossed beyond its opponent's 20-yard line last year. The six teams that were worse posted a combined winning percentage of .358 and Minnesota was the only playoff participant.
Running more effectively in the red zone has been a big theme for the Texans, and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan thinks that will be the key to fixing the close-range offense -- he said the Texans ran as much as anyone in the red zone last year, but were 27th in yards per carry.
As they work to run it better, I expect the team will also try to get the ball to Daniels in or near the end zone more often too.
The two teams the Texans are chasing, the Titans and Colts, do pretty well getting the ball to their tight ends for scores -- 26 percent of Indianapolis' TD catches last year were from tight ends, all but one from Dallas Clark; Tennessee's threw far fewer TDs than either Indy or Houston, but Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler still combined for a 23 percent share.
Houston's tight end TD number was 9.5 percent. Daniels has 167 catches in his first three years, but just 10 of them for scores, and that numbers has gone from five to three to two.
"I would like to be a bigger factor, I would like to help the team out as much as I can down there,” Daniels said. "I think in general we haven't been very good down there, especially last year. Hopefully that will change and I can be a part of that.”
Said Shanahan: "He needs to be more of a factor. If we can run the ball, they'll have to be one-safety defenses, and if they're one-safety defenses, if they're going to man up on Andre Johnson I bet a safety is going to cheat and help him. Then Owen Daniels is going to be one-on-one with a linebacker. If we can run the ball, I expect Owen Daniels is going to make a lot more plays and hopefully score a lot more.”