How Texans' electrifying addition is raising expectations on offense

The Texans haven't had a burner like this in a while. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans added an element to their offense they have been missing for the past few seasons when they selected Nathaniel “Tank” Dell in the third round of the 2023 draft. That element is explosiveness.

Dell starred for the Houston Cougars less than seven miles away from NRG Stadium for a bulk of his collegiate year. He caught 211 passes for 2,904 yards and 28 receiving touchdowns in his three seasons with UH.

In each one of those seasons, Dell had at least one play that went 54 yards or longer. During the 2022 season, Dell led the entire country in reception touchdowns with 17, and he also led the nation with 1,398 receiving yards.

While Dell’s 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine was 4.49 seconds, there is no questioning how he can impact any game with his speed. Dell excelled for UH when he was in the slot. It is a big reason why he played 388 snaps at slot for the Cougars during the 2022 season, according to Pro Football Focus.

With the Texans having outside receivers like Nico Collins and the expected return of John Metchie as well as the addition of Robert Woods and others, including rookie Xavier Hutchinson, Houston’s new-look receiving corps could be an underrated group.

If the Texans are able to establish the ground game with second-year back Dameon Pierce and supplement it with Devin Singletary, Dare Ogunbowale and the other running backs on the roster, Houston’s play actions with the threat of Dell taking the top off opposing defenses suddenly opens up the field for rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud.

The Texans have not had a legitimate threat at receiver that can take the top off defenses since Will Fuller during the 2020 season. While Brandin Cooks certainly had big play ability, his speed was not as much of a weapon as it will be for Dell, which makes the offense always capable of producing a big play.

Dell is excited about that possibility as well.

“Explosive plays. I feel like that should be my nickname cause all I know is explosive plays,” Dell told media reporters on a Zoom call Friday night when he was drafted.

Not only can Dell impact games on offense, but on special teams as well. Dell returned nine punts in his final season with Houston, and he scored one touchdown in those nine attempts. He also had two punt returns called back due to penalties in 2022.

While the UH standout’s size and occasional drops (21 over the last two seasons) likely kept him from being a higher prospect, the potential for Dell is sky-high.

It also helps that Stroud and Dell already seem to be building a strong quarterback-receiver relationship. When the team's top quarterback says he wants a specific player at receiver, it tends to bode well for the connection between the two.

While Dell and Stroud have not played together at the collegiate level, the next few weeks will likely be a crash course between the two as they get familiar with each other's game.

The one thing both had in common with their pressers after arriving was that they both have the desire to turn the franchise around from the rebuild. The Stroud-to-Dell duo could be an electric one in the fall and, just maybe, for years to come.

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