When the Houston Texans host the Buffalo Bills, DeAndre Hopkins will be featured heavily. You probably don’t need an opponent preview on him though, so instead we’re gonna look at tight end Ryan Griffin. Even star players like Hopkins need the rest of the team to help them out. The versatile Griffin is a quiet but necessary cog in the Houston offense. The starting tight end hasn’t seen less than 68% of snaps so far this year, and is averaging twice the playing time of the closest Texan tight end. Griffin has been limited in practice with a toe injury this week, but seems like he’ll play. If not, the Texans will look to replicate what he does, as seen below.
The Texans love to have Ryan Griffin across the formation, whether it’s blocking or running routes. On this play he ends up blocking Jaylon Smith one on one. After the initial contact, Smith disengages and looks to go around the tight end. Griffin keeps Smith in front of him pretty well and Deshaun Watson has one less linebacker to worry about.
Ryan Griffin and fellow tight end Jordan Thomas try to stop Demarcus Lawrence. Thomas loses the block and Lawrence slips behind him. Griffin is able to engage again and move laterally with Lawrence. This one goes down as a victory for Griffin.
The Texans aren’t afraid to send Griffin out, though his 20 targets this year suggest he’s not a focal point for touches. He saw nine of those targets in this game though, and there’s no reason to think he’ll be ignored when there’s a favorable match-up. The sporadic amount of passes thrown his way do mean teams can’t completely ignore him when he’s running up the field. He’s a decoy for this route and manages to pull one defender with him, making it just a little easier for the Texans.
Overall, Griffin catches well but doesn’t have great chemistry with Deshaun Watson. A good number of passes thrown to Griffin have been off target, like this one. It can be very difficult to assess blame, but the pattern of inaccurate ball placement to Griffin can’t be ignored. Griffin snags this one with a little extra effort.
Route mastery is not something to expect from Griffin, but he’ll do these for Watson well enough. Leighton Vander Esch misjudges this play which helps Griffin get wide open for the ball.
Like above, don’t expect much more than this but Griffin wisely understands the cushion Leighton Vander Esch provides here. Because Griffin isn’t a burner, he can make relatively tight turns to pair with his come back routes. Vander Esch is caught by surprise by this. Griffin’s lack of speed comes back to bite him as he’s tackled quickly after the catch.
In addition to being a bit of a jack of all trades, Griffin has occasional lapses in his play. The initial contact with Leighton Vander Esch is good, but Griffin fails to finish the block. He stands upright quickly, losing leverage in the process. Vander Esch is able to slip into the lane that Griffin is trying to keep him away from.
Griffin is set up to block Randy Gregory by himself. Gregory’s hesitation move leads to Griffin’s feet getting sloppy. Griffin stands upright like the last play and give up a lot of leverage. Additionally, Gregory is able to get his hands up near Griffin’s shoulders, which limits Griffin’s range of motion. With leverage gone and unable to hand fight, the results aren’t pretty.
At any given moment, Ryan Griffin can do his job well. The Buffalo Bills will need to account for Griffin. Both finesse and power rushers can find success against Griffin. Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, and Lorenzo Alexander all have variable skill sets that should be able to set something up against Griffin. Matt Milano will likely need to rely more on speed and finesse, and Tremaine Edmunds could have a strength advantage. In coverage, the Bills secondary could see him on any part of the field. Most of this group has the skill level to stay with Griffin. Bills fans shouldn’t expect to dominate Griffin, but a few impact plays through him shouldn’t be shocking.