When the Texans began training camp last year, as late as early August, it appeared as though their running back duo was going to be veteran Lamar Miller and oft-injured, former third round pick D'Onta Foreman. Well, life can come at you pretty fast, because by the time Week Three of the PRESEASON rolled around, Miller was out with a torn ACL, Foreman was cut, and the Texans were flipping over the RB depth chart like an angry poker player flips the table.
Enter Duke Johnson via a trade with the Cleveland Browns, and then on Swap Meet Saturday — that fateful day where the Texans disrupted about a third of the position groups their depth chart — Bill O'Brien made the trade with the Chiefs for eventual 1,000 yard rusher Carlos Hyde. It all worked out about as well as could be expected, with both Hyde and Johnson having their moments. Now what, in 2020?
Here are three burning Texan questions on the running back position:
Will Carlos Hyde be back?
Up until 2019, Hyde had been the ultimate journeyman, playing for four teams in just a matter of the last couple years before becoming a Texan. Hyde was almost immediately anointed the starter with Houston, and was very. very good in what was a perfect fit for him. His style seemed to jibe well with the scheme, and the attention drawn by Deshaun Watson meant Hyde saw very few stacked boxes against him. The Texans would like to bring Hyde back, but at the right price. I doubt his 2019 season will be viewed around the league as a sign that he is a late bloomer. More likely, Hyde's 2019 season will be viewed as an outlier, and his price should stay in a reasonable range for the Texans to bring him back.
How do they see Duke Johnson?
If Hyde was the revelation at RB in 2019, then Johnson was the frustration, and not really due to anything that was his fault. Johnson made some of the biggest plays fo the season, including the 3rd and 18 conversion that led to the winning score against the Bills in the playoffs. Johnson averaged 4.9 yards per carry, which led many fans to clamor for him to touch the ball more, ignoring that he is a back who, if fed more, would likely see diminishing returns. Johnson had receiving touchdowns in three of the biggest wins of the season — at Kansas City, vs Oakland, and vs New England. Perhaps a full training camp and a new play caller in Tim Kelly could mean an expanded role for Johnson. He is under contract for two more years.
Could the 57th overall pick be a running back?
I think this is a sleeper possibility for the Texans, finding another playmaker to augment the offense surrounding Deshaun Watson. Among the names that could be available at 57th overall — Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor (who recently said that Texans legend Arian Foster was his favorite player growing up), LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins. The key for any of these guys to get on the field, regardless of who drafts them, will be how well they can pick up blitzes and grasp an offense. We know all of them can run. I doubt the Texans go in this direction, but I would be in favor of them selecting a running back in the second or third round.
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