Arian Foster has been the measuring stick of success for any running back that has worn the Houston Texans uniform after the former undrafted running back from Tennessee was released in 2016.
Houston Texans’ head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien is putting all his chips on the table that David Johnson can be the next great running back in franchise history after acquiring him in the trade that sent All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals.
Texans haven’t had any real star at running back since Foster’s departure and they have been searching for his successor ever since. Foster left a lasting impact in his 17 games with O’Brien that has kept the head coach looking for a player that can be an impactful player in all three downs in the Texans offense. Lamar Miller and Carlos Hyde were given opportunities to take over the position, but they fell short of the production that Foster demonstrated in his prime.
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Miller deserves a ton of credit for his stint in Houston by earning his first Pro Bowl berth as an alternate in 2018, but the job was too big to fill in the end. Miller showed flashes of being a three-down back, but he was nowhere near the physical back that the offense needed. His running style didn’t complement what O’Brien was looking for at the running back position.
Hyde showed how the offense was supposed to be executed and was a better fit despite it can be argued he was the lesser talent of both players. Miller could catch the football out of the backfield but at 5’10, he didn’t have the rough running style to punish and wear down defenses like Hyde.
Miller’s Pro Bowl season came with his weight loss but there’s only so effective a player can be with a smaller frame. Johnson is a bigger back listed at 6’1, 224 pounds and is the closest running back to Foster from a physical and talent standpoint.
Injuries may have started taking a toll on Johnson, but the Houston Texans are betting on him to bounce back. The thinking and structure of the trade can be certainly be perceived as flawed with Hopkins being the far superior player in the exchange, but Johnson could be a home run if he gets back to his former self.
This trade shouldn’t be viewed as a single move, the trade with the Cardinals was the start of bigger moves as the Texans acquired Brandin Cooks from the Los Angeles Rams to help the receiver position and help their run game with Johnson.
The offense lost their best receiver on offense, but their best year could be this upcoming season. The collection of talent that has been acquired this offseason is arguably better than what has been taken in previous years under O’Brien.