Texans TE Dalton Schultz knows ‘spotlight’ in on Houston in 2024

Five years after being in the spotlight as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans tight end Dalton Schultz knows what it’s like to handle the pressure of living up to lofty expectations. 

He also knows that last season wasn’t a fluke for the reigning AFC South champions, even though few nationally predicted Houston to be a legitimate postseason contender following three lackluster campaigns that ended with 11 combined wins. 

Everyone is paying attention to C.J. Stroud, Laremy Tunsil and the revamped Texans’ offense entering 2024. The nation will get an up-close look at Houston’s improvements with six nationally televised games, including four on primetime.

Schultz, who inked a three-year, $36 million extension to return to Houston, has embraced being under the microscope. His teammates also expect every opponent to enter NRG Stadium with the intent of playing perfect football.

You’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” Schultz said Tuesday following the second day of the Texans’ organized team activities. “Now the spotlight’s on you — what are you going to do with it?”

While Stroud, a two-time Heisman finalist and reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, took the league by storm in Year 1, though he had consistent help in the passing game. Perhaps none down the stretch were bigger than Schultz, who took over as a security blanket late in games after signing a one-year deal in the offseason. 

Schultz finished with 59 catches for 635 yards and five touchdowns, including a 130-yard outing in the comeback win over Tampa Bay. Embedding in the system, he knew entering free agency wasn’t ideal and Houston had become home. 

“This is where I wanted to be,” Schultz said. “I wanted to be a part of something to turn the team around and build something special for the city of Houston. It was where I wanted to be.”

No one doubts Stroud’s skills entering Year 2, including Schultz, who said he’s seen a more confident version of the passer arrive in the early stages of OTAs. It also helps to have a consistent room of targets who already have a relationship with the quarterback. 

Schultz is one of three key weapons back for the offense in 2024. Nico Collins, who enters a contract year, also returns after a breakout healthy season. So is Tank Dell, who practiced for the first time since suffering a season-ending fractured leg in Week 13’s win over the Denver Broncos. 

But Houston wasn’t done adding targets. After missing out on several free agents, the Texans traded a late-round pick to Cincinnati for Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon. Three weeks before the draft, Houston traded a 2025 second-round pick to Buffalo for four-time Pro Bowl receiver Stefon Diggs. 

 Since joining the Bills in 2020, Diggs has led the league in receptions with 445. Last season, Mixon caught a career-high 52 passes for three touchdowns. 

It’s great to have a fully loaded clip … metaphorically speaking,” Schultz said. “But at the same time, we all understand it doesn’t matter how much talent you have if you can’t go out there and execute and do what’s needed of you. We know we’re not surprising anybody this year.” 

Last season, Stroud was an unknown prospect fresh off a College Football Playoff berth. The Texans were on their fourth coach in four years and the roster had seen a constant overhaul. 

A year later, the former No. 2 pick looks like an MVP candidate and Houston feels like an AFC contender. That comes with outside pressure, though Schultz believes that pressure is more so a lost focus in the moment. 

“People make it bigger than it is,” Schultz said. “That’s the biggest thing I’m trying to tell guys. It’s like, ‘Listen, it’s not like you got to try harder. You don’t have to go harder.‘ The details need to be on point because guys feel like there’s more pressure. Pressure is not real to me.”

Story originally appeared on Texans Wire