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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – For two seasons, Texans tight end Garrett Graham had no choice but to be patient while hoping his opportunity would come.
Of course there was plenty of scout team duty, special teams opportunities and the occasional insertion into the offensive game plan but mostly Graham just watched and learned from Owen Daniels and Joel Dreesen. He patiently awaited his chance.
“It wasn’t easy,” Graham said to SportsRadio 610. “You are on the scout team during the season and being inactive but you just try to get better every day, pay your dues and go from there.
“It seems like has been more than two years and it seems like it’s time.”
Indeed it seems to be time for the third-year tight end out of Wisconsin. With the departure of Dreesen to Denver via free agency, Graham entered camp with the opportunity to prove himself as a backup to Daniels and perhaps become the red zone target Dreesen had been the past couple seasons.
So far in camp, Graham has looked capable of filling both roles for the Texans. In fact he was one of the offensive bright spots during the Texans 26-13 preseason-opening win over the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night.
Graham caught a team-high three passes for 44 yards on the night, which included a 26 yard reception, while working with the first and second team offensive units.
“It went good,” said Graham, who came into Saturday with one career catch for 24 years during his first two seasons combined. “There are always things you can improve on and get better with but for the first preseason game it looked good.”
Not only did Graham show some receiving skills but he also held up well on the blocking front, which quite frankly the greatest hurdle for young tight ends. While Graham was far from perfect, the strides he made Saturday night are a testament to the offseason regimen he went through with Texans strength and conditioning coach Cedric Smith. Graham, who is 6-foot-3 and 244, reduced his fat count and added muscle to help build stamina and strength.
It certainly looked as though it paid dividends Saturday night with Graham getting good push off the offensive line.
“He’s a very much-improved player, and we’ve seen that the last two weeks; it didn’t just happen (Saturday) night,” said Texans coach Gary Kubiak. “He’s come a long way. He’s bigger, stronger, he’s faster.
“He’s had a great offseason with Cedric. Cedric really did a heck of a job with him. And if he continues to step the way he has in his first few weeks, it’s going to be a really nice year for him. I’ve been very impressed with his play.”
Graham says he has noticed a difference all throughout training camp and he credits the strength and conditioning program he began the day after the Super Bowl.
“Just my stamina really, being able to run some more routes, blocking on the line it definitely helps a lot,” he said. “You don’t get thrown around so it helps in everything it seems.”
Graham will need all the help possible as he moves into a much more critical role, not only backing up Daniels and but also as the second tight end in the Texans two-tight end sets. The Texans entered camp working fourth-year player James Casey at both tight end and fullback, while the coaches figured out if Graham was ready for a bigger role.
But as camp has progressed and Graham has shown signs of significant growth, Casey has spent most his time working at fullback. His development has certainly not gone unnoticed.
“(Graham) is one of the most improved players,” said Kubiak, whose team is getting set to host San Francisco on Saturday. “I could probably list five or six guys, but obviously he is one of the most improved players on our team right now.”
Graham is also easily one of the most eager to get out there having waited patiently the last two seasons for this opportunity.
“I’m ready to go,” he said. “It has been a while since I just played tight end in a game, probably since last preseason.”