The Houston Texans shouldn’t have anything set in stone or written in Sharpie when it comes to who will be the starting running back for the offense in 2021. That said, the hope is that there is some sort of competition between incumbent starter David Johnson and newly signed free agent Phillip Lindsay, because it can only help make the team better.
Of course, there is also Mark Ingram on the depth chart of the Texans, but most likely he won’t be the starter; rather, he’ll have a role within games that will use his best abilities to his advantage. As for Johnson, it is probably his job to lose because he was the main starter last season, and Duke Johnson was his backup. Duke Johnson has since been released, and that is how Lindsay was brought into the mix in the running back rotation.
Lindsay has had an interesting career in his first three seasons, all with the Denver Broncos. As a rookie, he started eight games, but was active for 15 games where he rushed for 1,037 yards with nine touchdowns on 192 rushes. In his second season, he made 16 starts where on 224 carries he rushed for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns. This past season, his playing time dropped as he was active for 11 games and made eight starts. In those games, Lindsay rushed for 502 yards and scored one touchdown.
As a rookie in ’18, Lindsay averaged 5.4 yards per carry, but in ’19 his yards per carry went to 4.5, and last season it dropped to 4.3. Lindsay’s first down carries have dropped as well, with ’18 being 49 carries for a first down, then that number fell to 38 in ’19, and last season he had only 19 first down carries.
That said, there is still so much upside for Lindsay as a member of the Houston Texans running back roster, and what draws the most attention is the fact he can make David Johnson a better running back in ’21 due to increased competition at the position. If it doesn’t, well, changes need to be made as to who the starting running back will be.
Houston Texans: David Johnson was starter in 2020
We can’t forget about the numbers of David Johnson, as he’s spent most of his career with the Arizona Cardinals, though last season was his first year with the Houston Texans after being traded for in the DeAndre Hopkins trade.
In his first season with the Houston Texans, Johnson didn’t have the best run blocking offensive line in 2020, but things have since changed in ’21 with some changes made within that unit, and like with the running backs, expect more from that unit this upcoming season.
Johnson started in each game he was active for in ’20, which was 12 games. On those games, he had just 147 rushes for 691 yards and six touchdowns. He also caught 33 passes on 44 targets for 314 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson averaged 4.7 yards per carry, and 38 of his carries were for a first down.
This will be a whole new look for the Houston Texans in 2021, even with Tim Kelly still being the offensive coordinator, as David Culley is the new head coach of the team. David Johnson was the go-to guy in ’20, but with this being a new season, there is still an opportunity for Lindsay to unseat David Johnson as the starting running back for the franchise, and here is how he can achieve that feat.
This will be just the fourth season for Phillip Lindsay in his NFL career. As for Johnson, this will be his seventh NFL season, and in 74 career games Johnson has amassed 928 carries for 3,819 yards and 39 touchdowns. Even though Johnson averaged 4.7 yards per carry last season, for his career he’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry, and all of those rushes must have taken a toll on his body.
Lindsay has played in 42 games with 32 starts in three seasons, where he’s collected 534 carries for 2,550 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry in his career. Though he averaged 1.1 yards fewer per carry in ’20 than he did as a rookie in ’18, there is so much less wear and tear on Lindsay than Johnson, and that could become a factor if Lindsay is to get a bulk of the carries in ’21.
The addition of Justin Britt as center to the offensive line of the Houston Texans will help both running backs as he’s solid at run blocking, but in terms of who can take more hits and carries, Lindsay has to get the edge in this category. That isn’t anything against Johnson, but the fact Lindsay has been in the league four years less than Johnson.
Again, this will be a big battle between the two running backs, but this is what the Houston Texans need to show improvement from the 2020 season where the Texans were one of the worst rushing teams in the league, and that improvement starts with Lindsay.