Texans pushing for running back competition by signing Rex Burkhead

New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead (34) Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead (34) Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

In a move reported by ESPN, the Texans are bringing aboard Rex Burkhead to compete with an already crowded running back depth chart.

When you’re a team like the Houston Texans, facing what promises to be a bleak and dire 2021 regular-season campaign, you can afford to take whatever swings out there on the open market to potentially help your team improve.

Teams going through a rebuild especially shouldn’t stop themselves from looking at any possible avenue to improve the roster, even if that means adding players who don’t have a chance of making it onto the 53-man group in Week 1 but could still help spark some necessary competition in training camp and the preseason.

Perhaps that’s the case with one of Houston’s newest members, running back Rex Burkhead, who is reportedly joining the roster, according to a Tuesday report from ESPN.

Burkhead, 30 years old, spent the last four years with the New England Patriots. So his familiarity with now-Texans general manager Nick Caserio is likely a prime reason why the running back came aboard.

Yet there’s also the recognition of Burkhead’s role as a dual-threat offensive option, contributing in both the ground and pass games with notable success the last five years:

Rex Burkhead Rushing & Receiving Table
4 yr4 yrCIN428737534.345342888.511216632
4 yr4 yrNWE412531026114.1127968568.9734918824

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 6/1/2021.

Houston finds itself lacking receiving weapons entering 2021, so at least part of the thought is to give quarterback Tyrod Taylor, assuming he starts, at least one more friendly and reliable option to take pressure off any duress Taylor might experience.

That said, Burkhead still has a ways to go to make the regular-season roster.

Rex Burkhead enters an already-crowded Texans running back room

On the surface, it doesn’t make sense why Caserio would waste a roster spot for a position that already includes six other running backs — David Johnson, Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, Dontrell Hilliard, Buddy Howell and Scottie Phillips.

But Hilliard, Howell and Phillips figure to be offseason roster bodies entering 2021 and little more, while Johnson, Lindsay and Ingram have all dealt with injuries in recent seasons.

Ingram, the 31-year-old veteran, is the elder statesman of the room, too, and he might be present merely for some useful guidance for the rest of the offense.

Burkhead now fits that mold, too, even though he was never primarily featured in New England’s offense at any point during his career. Given Caserio’s tendency for onboarding former Patriots players, though, it makes sense why he’d want another in his attempt to bring that culture in towards Houston.

Regardless, considering Football Outsiders ranked the Texans’ 2020 rushing offense dead last, in terms of DVOA, it makes sense to try whatever could potentially work and help.

Especially if the offense is going to shift towards being a more run-heavy unit this upcoming season.

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