Texans coach Bill O’Brien was thinking more about blocking and veteran leadership when he signed tight end Darren Fells to a one-year contract during the offseason.
It’s clear the Texans have gotten more than they hoped with the basketball-player-turned-journeyman tight end. Fells, who played college basketball at UC Irvine and not football, is having a breakout season for the Texans as a capable receiver and the go-to target of Deshaun Watson’s in the red zone.
Fells is one of several weapons Watson has at his disposal but the sixth-year tight end is just excited about being a contributor to the success of the Texans.
“It’s always fun to be able to help my teammates,” said Fells, who spent his first four years out of college playing basketball overseas. “I’ve always felt that the more weapons you have on offense, the harder you are to stop. So, anything I can to help out the team – pass game, run game, I’m going to do and try to get my teammates involved as well.”
While the 33-year-old Fells is modest about his contribution to the team, his impact has been critical to the offense. At 6-foot-7, he is a large target who is easy for Watson spot in tight spaces around the endzone.
That was never more evident than during the comeback win against the Raiders when Watson connected with Fells twice, including the miraculous 9-yard scoring pass just after Watson had been kicked in the eye to give the Texans a 27-24 lead. Fells finished the game with six catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns.
For the season, Fells is on pace for his best year yet with 17 catches for 244 yards and a career-high and team-leading five touchdown catches. Fells, who has previously caught three touchdowns three times in a season, has 15 career touchdowns and 14 of those have come in the red zone.
“He’s been a good addition since the day he walked in here. He’s a very mature guy,” said O’Brien, whose team travels to London to take on the Jaguars. “He works very hard. He’s very smart. He’s always about the team.”
Fells is exactly who O’Brien thought he was and then some when brought him to join a group of young tight ends.
“I think having a veteran presence can definitely help a room that has younger players in it,” O’Brien said. “I think that was part of it, but I think overall, you know, it was the skillset. It was the talent, it was the size, it was the ability to block, do some things that we need that position to do, that Y position to do. Having those other things and the type of leader he is in that room really helped.”
Follow Terrance Harris on Twitter @terranceharris.