Sean Pendergast

RB David Johnson's Lackluster 2020 Makes Him One of Most Disappointing Texans

Does the vitriol toward Texans RB David Johnson match the anger Texan fans felt toward Brock Osweiler?
Does the vitriol toward Texans RB David Johnson match the anger Texan fans felt toward Brock Osweiler? Photo by Eric Sauseda
I'll admit, I got duped. I got duped hard by Texans running back David Johnson in the preseason. The controversial (and wildly expensive) trade piece that came over in the DeAndre Hopkins trade, a running back who hadn't really been productive since 2016, Johnson looked SO good in training camp that I thought Bill O'Brien might have outthought us all. Maybe, just maybe, O'Brien was playing chess while the world played checkers!

Here was O'Brien on Johnson during training camp:

“Arian Foster was a great three-down back. He was an excellent receiver out of the backfield. He had good size, great vision in the running game,” O’Brien said on Texans All Access when asked if he’s coached a running back like David Johnson. “Not trying to get into comparisons or anything like that, but since then, we really haven’t had that guy until now with David Johnson. We’ve got a three-down back that can run the football. He’s a really good receiver out of the backfield. Very smart, very professional. We think he’s gotten off to a great start. He’s come back in excellent shape."
In the moment, when O'Brien said these words, my reaction was "YES! That's what I am seeing at practice, too! This guy looks great!" As it turns out, Johnson's looking great was probably more about practicing against the worst run defense in football than it was about Johnson actually recapturing any magic, because seven games into his Texans career, Johnson is as pedestrian as it gets — 19th in the league in rushing (392 yards on 101 carries), 38th in the league in yards per carry (3.9 yards), and just 16 catches on the season.

Yes, you want irony? Johnson's ability to catch the football was supposed to be a game changer for this offense. Instead, he is on pace for under 40 catches, and the stud for whom he was traded, DeAndre Hopkins (remember him?) is leading the league in catches and receiving yards.

If we are being honest with ourselves, David Johnson never had a chance. Never had a chance to capture the hearts of Houston Texan fans, having been traded for DeAndre Hopkins. Never had a chance to get out of first gear, having Bill O'Brien and Tim Kelly calling the plays. Add to that the things that are Johnson's own fault — wonky field vision, a seeming aversion to heavy contact, a plodding running style — and the sum of the parts is a player who is winding up on the "all time Texan fan single season scorn" list alongside names like these:

2007 Ahman Green
After signing a deal for four years, $23 million ($8 million guaranteed) at the age of 30, and coming off two injury marred seasons in Green Bay, Green would start just six games in two seasons, a total of just 144 carries, before being let go after 2008.

2010 Kareem Jackson
Because he became a very solid staple of the defense for many, many years, some people forget what a disaster Jackson was as a rookie in 2010. Perhaps unfairly, he became the face of the 32nd rated pass defense in football that year, routinely coughing up 100 yard games to average or unknown wide receivers, with the nadir being a 111-yard, two TD performance by someone named Seji Ajirotutu gf the Chargers around Week 8 or so. It ended up working out for Jackson, unlike the other names on this list.

2013 Matt Schaub
In 2013, the Texans came into the season coming off a 12-4 year the season before, and they had Super Bowl aspirations. Instead, the season got buried early under a sea of pick sixes from Schaub — four straight games with a pick six — and the Texans would go on to a 2-14 record, and Gary Kubiak would be fired before season's end.

2013 Ed Reed
There were a lot of non-Schaub reasons the Texans went 2-14 in 2013, though. Perhaps you remember the Texans bringing in Reed, a longtime friend of Andre Johnson, for his "leadership traits". If we define "leadership" has "hiding a hip injury and timing surgery so as to miss all of training camp, and then trashing the coaches while playing awful football yourself," then dammit, Ed Reed was a leader of men!

2016 Brock Osweiler
Not much to say here. Just watch, observe, and thank all of the football gods for Deshaun Watson:

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast