The Houston Texans have made it to their bye week with the AFC's best record, due in no small part to the contribution of tight end Owen Daniels. The seventh-year pro out of Wisconsin is having arguably his best season yet, catching 33 passes for 416 yards, both second only to Andre Johnson. His four receiving touchdowns lead the squad.
As Nick Scurfield reports for the team's web site, Daniels' production could send him to the Pro Bowl:
In his seventh season, Daniels ranks second among AFC tight ends in catches, yards and yards per catch (12.6). He's tied for third in touchdowns and leads all NFL tight ends in yards after the catch (207).
The only AFC tight end with more catches and yards than Daniels is New England's Rob Gronkowski, who has two more catches (35) and 18 more yards (434). Gronkowski (5) and Pittsburgh's Heath Miller are the only AFC tight ends with more touchdowns. Titans tight end Jared Cook (13.1) edges Daniels in catching average by half a yard.
Daniels says his focus has not been on his statistics, but on becoming a better all-around tight end:
"I think I've improved as a player," Daniels said. "I think I'm better in terms of holding up in pass protection and blocking in the run game than I was (in his last Pro Bowl season). I think I'm a little more physical now. You like to see that, the longer you're in the league, to get a little better at that type of thing."
Daniels was a fourth-round pick of the Texans in 2006 and has been with the franchise throughout his career. He sustained a knee injury after eight games in 2009, the last time he managed to record receiving statistics similar to those from this year.
The Texans return to action next weekend at Reliant Stadium, where they host the Buffalo Bills.