HOUSTON – An unlikely reunion has sparked a career renaissance for Texans veteran tight end Jordan Akins.
Back with the team that drafted him in the third round. Back with the team that benched him last season and didn’t try to retain him as a free agent, Akins is playing some of the best football of his career.
When the New York Giants released Akins, the Texans appeared to be the last team that the former Texas Rangers minor league baseball player would join as a free agent.
Instead, though, Akins signed with the Texans’ practice squad and later earned a spot on the 53-man roster with several clutch catches and has emerged as a key part of the offense.
The way it all unfolded is a testament to not burning bridges. Akins didn’t complain about his plight when he was a healthy scratch last season. Now, he’s one of the key elements of the Texans’ passing game.
“Coming back is an honor,” Akins said. “To be back with my brothers and compete and go to work with my soldiers. Anytime my jersey is called to make a play, I try to do the best I can whether it’s special teams or offense, any way I can contribute.”
Akins, 30, has caught 10 passes for 154 yards and one touchdown. His high percentage of catches to targets, he’s been targeted a dozen times, is impressive.
Akins’ first game that he was active this season was against the Chicago Bears, and he caught three passes for 31 yards and one touchdown.
Akins built chemistry last season with Texans quarterback Davis Mills when the former Stanford standout was a rookie.
Now, they’re continuing their collaboration.
“We’re just picking up where we left off at,” Akins said. “More repetitions for the tight ends to run down the seams, in the flats, as well as inside the hashes. I think we’re connecting pretty well.
“He’s trusting us and we’re trusting him. Repetition, practice and just being able to read the defensive coverage well. He’s doing a great job of stepping up in the pocket, and the timing is perfect. We’re moving the chains, and we’re looking forward to continuing to do that.”
During a road loss to the Las Vegas Raiders last week, Akins caught three passes for a season-high 68 yards.
His first two receptions were on third downs to convert first downs. He also converted a fourth down try.
Eight of his 10 receptions have either resulted in a first down or a touchdown.
“Jordan Akins continues to shine and have his moments,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said.
Akins ranks second in the NFL in yards per reception since the third week of the season among all NFL tight ends with at least 10 catches, averaging 15.4 yards per catch.
Eight of his 10 catches in 2022 have gone for a first down or touchdown.
“You love throwing to tight ends and running backs because a lot of times they’re matched up on non-coverage guys on the defense,” Mills said. “Any time we can get an advantageous look with a matchup, especially with a guy like Akins who can have a lot of speed through transition to separate at the catch point. It really helps you as an offense because you know you’re going to find a reliable target who’s going to be able to get open.”
Akins caught 24 passes for 214 yards on 33 targets in 13 games and three starts last season for the Texans.
“Jordan has done a great job of taking advantage of the opportunities that have been present for him, coming in, learning our system, even though he’s been here before,” Texans tight ends coach Tim Berbenich said. “The system’s been completely different. He’s done a great job of understanding what his role is and when he’s called on, he’s been ready to make a play.
“He’s earning it. He’s ready for the opportunity. His availability for us and his ability make the plays that have been called on, that’s what’s really helped Jordan (Akins) evolve into the role he has now.”
The way the Texans performed against the Raiders was different offensively. They played a lot faster.
“We definitely came out with some tempo, some energy,” Akins said. “Pushing each other, competing at practice. It played over to the game. When we got to the game, we were excited to play. Everyone was expecting to make plays. That’s what we did, we kept moving the chains and the offense looked good.”
Known for his receiving prowess, Akins has 124 career receptions for 1,414 yards and four touchdowns, all with the Texans.
Two seasons ago, Akins caught 37 passes for 403 yards and one touchdown.
In offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s offense, Akins has proven to be capable at every facet of the game.
“I look at myself as more than just a passing tight end,” Akins said. “I can block as well whether inside the box or outside the box. I think he (Hamilton) is doing a great job creating mismatches and calling the right plays. Plays that Mills is comfortable with and the whole offense is comfortable with, so we can play fast.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com
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