There are a ton of unknowns for the Houston Texans in 2021. This will happen when you have a new head coach (who's never been a head coach before), a new general manager, and a roster that is dotted with a majority of first time Texans' employees. In fact, one of the only things that we DO know about the 2021 Houston Texans is that Caserio will continue to churn this roster until he finds a few potential building blocks for seasons 2022, 2023, and beyond.
To that end, the Texans doled out another short-term contract to a veteran player on Tuesday morning, signing former Patriots (remember those two words, you'll need them in a minute) running back Rex Burkhead. Burkhead, a 2013 sixth round pick out of Nebraska to the Bengals, played his first four seasons in Cincinnati before joining the Patriots for four seasons, beginning in 2017.
There are a few things to unpack here, so let's talk more about what the newest Texan means to the team's outlook:
What does Burkhead bring to the table?
His numbers were never gaudy in any one season, but Burkhead is probably best known for being a hard-nosed runner and very deft receiving option out of the backfield. Burkhead can be a very valuable target in the screen game. His only two fully healthy seasons came in the last two years of his rookie deal with the Bengals, when he played all 16 games each year. In New England, durability was an issue as he played in just 41 of a possible 64 games. His best bit of work was in the 2018 postseason, where he scored three touchdowns for a Patriots team that wound up beating the Rams in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady's final Super Bowl win as a Patriot. If you're looking for some visual aid on Burkhead, here you go:
Wow, there is a logjam of veteran Texans running backs trying to rehab their careers
Field Yates of ESPN.com laid out this dynamic, the glut of veteran running backs on "prove it to me" deals, pretty well here:
Here's a look at the Texans' backfield following the signing of Rex Burkhead: David Johnson, Mark Ingram, Philip Lindsay, Rex Burkhead and Dontrell Hilliard.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) June 1, 2021
The roster overhaul by GM Nick Caserio continues with a heavy dose of veteran free agent additions.
I think it's safe to assume that not all four of the accomplished veterans in that tweet (Burkhead, Lindsay, Johnson, and Ingram) are going to make the team. If I had to choose an odd man out at this point, give me Johnson, who got a small trickle of guaranteed money to stick around for another season, but just didn't have nearly the juice of his younger years when he touched the ball last season.
where the Texans ranked in age of 53-man roster at cutdown day:— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) June 1, 2021
2017: 4th youngest
*as of June 1
Honestly, this isn't anything that makes me particularly emotional. This is a statistical product of the approach Caserio is taking in cleaning up the mess left behind by Bill O'Brien. My guess is the players pulling that age number up are largely on one year deals and will be no part of this team once the foundation is rebuilt in a couple years. If anything, the experience level of the veterans they brought in probably equates to an extra win or two, which might cost the Texans the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Oh, did someone say "former Patriot" in describing Rex Burkhead, because he is not alone....
ON the day Caserio was hired, owner Cal McNair said this:
Cal McNair:”We thank the New England Patriots,specifically Robert&Jonathan Kraft&Coach Belichick for being a 1st-class organization that builds winners.With respect to their organization,we do not consider ourselves the Patriots South.We are here to lead this team the Texans way” pic.twitter.com/hxGgKJEPt0— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) January 8, 2021
On June 1, the Texans have Burkhead along with former Patriots WR Donte Moncrief, T Marcus Cannon, TE Ryan Izzo, S Terrence Brooks and DE Derek Rivers on the roster. Maybe not full on "Patriots South," but KIND OF "Patriots South," no?
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