Houston Texans: Mismatches with RBs will lead to success

Duke Johnson of Houston Texans (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)
Duke Johnson of Houston Texans (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images) /

Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien knows his running backs will be important in 2020.

One part of the Houston Texans offense that is tough not to be excited for is the new running back duo of “Johnson and Johnson” with David Johnson and Duke Johnson leading the way for that part of the depth chart.

The Texans allowed 1,000-yard rusher Carlos Hyde to leave in free agency after his lone season with the franchise in 2019 where he finished with 1,070 yards and six touchdowns on 245 carries (4.4 yards per carry). Hyde’s 1,000-yard rushing season with the Houston Texans was the first of his seven-year career, but both parties have moved on in 2020.

With the focus shifted towards David Johnson as the top running back of the group, while Duke Johnson has a very important role as well, these will be the two running backs that will get most of the attention in the offense.

That said, there is a battle for the third running back spot between Karan Higdon and Buddy Howell, as they will play an important role within the offense too, especially if they are called upon for third down plays.

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As for the Texans head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien, he spoke very recently about his running backs, as he was asked about the mismatches the running backs can create this upcoming season. O’Brien had this to say in the question about his running backs with comments provided by NFL Communications:

"“We’ve worked hard in the offseason to come up with different packages relative to some of the things we’ve done in the past. Some of those packages obviously involve David and Duke. Both guys are, I believe, three-down backs. They can play on all three downs. They can run it. They can catch the ball out of the backfield, really smart guys. Really good communicators.”"

O’Brien continued to speak highly about both running backs in the same interview after saying how great of communicators they were:

"“I would say David’s come in here and been very impressive. In fantastic shape, smart, really picking up the offense well. We saw that in the spring. To see him in here in the walkthroughs and things we’re doing, I think he has high expectations for himself. That’s the type of guy he is. We have high expectations for him.”"

Houston Texans News: David Johnson, Duke Johnson can be special duo

David Johnson has off-the-charts potential if he returns to the type of player he’s shown he can be in the past during his early seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. Being that he’s a dual threat, the Houston Texans offense not only has a player with the abilities to be very dangerous with rushing and catching the football, but they have a player who has been outstanding at that role in the past.

It is tough to tell if David Johnson can be the same player he was in 2016 when he had 293 carries for 1,239 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns, plus 80 receptions for 879 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Those are outstanding numbers, but they were also going on four seasons ago, so time will tell if that type of season can be repeated.

What a running back duo like “Johnson and Johnson” could mean is fewer hits on Deshaun Watson because the quarterback does take too many hits for comfort, and being that he’s the most important for success by the Houston Texans, if he cuts down on his rushes in 2020 that could have a great turn towards him having less risk at injury.

Another plus for the Houston Texans offense headed into the 2020 season is both running backs are veterans, and with how this offseason has gone with the COVID-19 pandemic, they don’t have to worry about preseason games, and with the less wear and tear on their bodies before Kickoff 2020, those two being fresher in Week 1 is an advantage too.

There are many ways to look at how the Texans can play with the mismatches their running backs can create. What they are going to be able to do in the passing game can’t be stressed enough. If they can get coverage on them by a linebacker, who knows what type of numbers “Johnson and Johnson” can create.

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One thing  is for certain — or at least should be — and that is the Houston Texans will be better offensively as a whole than they were a season ago. These two running backs should help the unit be more creative, which should lead to more scoring. That’s going to be needed in the first month of the season, because nothing is going to come easy for this team in 2020.