Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky
With Owen Daniels lost for the season to a torn ACL, Gary Kubiak and Kyle Shanahan will need to tinker with their offense.
And Sunday in Indianapolis, one of the players they’d like to look to to help offset the loss won’t be available either. Rookie tight end James Casey has a torn meniscus repaired with a scope early Monday, Gary Kubiak said at his afternoon press conference.
("The surgery went really well and I will be back in no time ready to rock and roll," Casey tweeted from @jamescasey86.)
It’s hardly ideal to go forward without Daniels -- who is second on the team with 40 catches and tops with five touchdown receptions -- but it shouldn’t be a death blow either.
The Texans will be able to get something out of Daniels’ replacement, Joel Dreessen. And they can do more with receivers beyond Andre Johnson. I’ve touted No. 2 wideout Kevin Walter, who’s had a semi-quiet year and can produce more than roughly the 3.5 catches a game he’s averaging now.
Other players they can try to look to more: receivers David Anderson, Andre Davis and Jacoby Jones and Casey once he’s healthy, hopefully after the bye week for a Nov. 23 "Monday Night Football" game against the Titans.
“The production of catching the football and those types of things have got to continue to come from some place,” Kubiak said. “Does it come from Joel? Does it get spread out amongst the receivers? We’ll see. But it’s another adjustment period for us as an offensive coaching staff.”
Dreessen played 52 plays of offense and about 80 total in the win in Buffalo, Kubiak said. He will continue to work as the long snapper, but likely have his other special teams obligations scaled back.
Because Daniels is so good, the Texans haven’t had to rely on Dreessen in the passing game, but it doesn’t mean they’ve not looked to him. In their Week 2 win at Tennessee, Matt Schaub threw to Dreessen to convert a key fourth-and-2 on a drive that tied the game in the fourth quarter.
“He’ does a little bit of everything,” Kubiak said. “He’s a guy who can play a lot of football with limited [practice] reps. ... He’s just very flexible. He can do a little of both as a tight end on the line of scrimmage, as a receiver. Big opportunity for him in his career, we’ve got to use him the right way and he’s got to step up.”
Kubiak said with replacement guards filling in and Kasey Studdard and Chris White gradually improving after season-ending injuries to Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel and Ryan Moats’ stellar performance against the Bills after Steve Slaton was benched, the Texans are looking for the next round of players to rise to the opportunity.
Another rookie tight end, Anthony Hill, was brought in largely because of his abilities as a blocker. The team will likely look at tight ends and long snappers this week as they consider how to fill Daniels’ roster spot.
As for the running back situation, Kubiak was non-committal. He said only Slaton can fix the fumble problems that led to his benching.
They will consider both and Chris Brown as they prepare for Indy. Kubiak said that Moats is roughly the same as Slaton in pass protection, but while he has good hands less equipped to line up wide and run routes as Slaton can.
The Texans could play backs by down, meaning work on first and second down for Moats and maybe some chances for Slaton on third down when his versatility is more appealing.
They shouldn’t be quick to move away from Moats after such a great fill-in performance. A lost Slaton fumble won’t likely be something they can survive at Lucas Oil Stadium.
One note on Moats, who scored three TDs in the fourth quarter in Buffalo, from the Elias Sports Bureau: In the last seven seasons (2003-09) the only other NFL player to score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter of one game was Michael Turner for the Falcons -- last year against Carolina.