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2016 Houston Texans Training Camp Competition: Running Back (Part II--Chasing The Pack)

Alfred Blue heads in as my favourite to win the third RB job for the Texans in 2016, but what about the next best?

Grimes stretches out for the touchdown
Grimes stretches out for the touchdown
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As I said yesterday, I think Alfred Blue would get the job as RB3 for the Houston Texans in 2016 if I were in Bill O'Brien's shoes (which, to be honest, I'm quite glad I'm not). However, behind Blue there are two guys that have been on the roster recently and have made an equally good case for that third spot. Training camp and preseason is a long process.  With good performances, coupled with their performances last year, I could see one or both of these players easily leap ahead of Blue on the depth chart.

Chasing The Pack:

Jonathan Grimes

Good ol' Grimey. His carries have been pretty limited in Houston, but he's always performed well. Jonathan may not have "lit it up" in a Texans jersey, but he has been excellent in a limited role. He only had 56 carries last year,, managing 282 yards. That works out at five yards per carry, which is pretty darn good. Grimes played in 14 games last year; in three of those, he had no carries and in one game he had only one carry. Over the rest of the games, he averaged around six or seven carries a game and always did well; only three times was Grimes below four yards per carry. I, and many others, wanted to see him get the ball more; whether or not he has the talent to deal with an increased work load is up for debate. There must be a reason he wasn't given the ball more.

The positive aspect of Grimes' limited carries is that he has already shown that he can fill a backup role. Blue struggled in games where he got limited carries, whereas Grimes excelled. Grimes is used to coming in to the game and having to perform for a couple of snaps before heading back to the sideline.  That may come in useful if that's the role he would fulfill again.

We also used Grimes running out of direct snaps a couple times last year.  Successfully, too. That's something that Blue wouldn't be suited for, so it's a win for Grimes in that respect. A small win, but something that may play into the decision. O'Brien loves his versatility, after all.

Grimes is a smaller back, slightly quicker and more agile than Blue. He's definitely not going to be a power up the middle, but he battles hard for the yards. Similarly to Blue, Grimes has reliable hands. With only one fumble on his 158 touches in his career, he's another one you can trust not to turn the ball over.  That;s another one of those points that O'Brien drills into his players: don't turn the ball over.

Akeem Hunt

Akeem Hunt played his first game for the Texans in Week 11 last year after spending the start of the season on the Giants' practice squad. He only had 17 carries and 6 receptions over his seven games, but boy did he manage to get everyone excited. The guy was electric with the ball, flashing speed that we hadn't seen in a long time out of the backfield. He had runs of 17 yards, 21 yards and 25 yards, plus a reception for 27 yards that stuck in the memory and got me excited for his big play capability. However, apart from those four plays, Hunt didn't really do a whole lot. You remove those plays from his stats, and you get 14 carries for 33 yards and 5 catches for 12 yards. Big plays scattered between lots of below average play.

Hunt's best asset is that home run play ability. You can see he has the potential to create something out of nothing with his speed and ability to change direction in an instant. However, you can also see he's not an every down back.  He doesn't have the skill-set to run between the tackles. You want to give him the ball, get him outside of the tackles on stretches, and try beat some guys in the open field. Unfortunately, I don't think that's a particularly good way to run the ball.  I much prefer someone who can run it up the middle.

I think the factor that will let Hunt down is his consistency. Sure, it's great to have a guy that break out on a big run, but if on every other play he's struggling to get two yards, you have to ask: is it worth it?

The other thing that will certainly factor against him is the fact that Tyler Ervin is also a speedy back with big play potential. Do we need two of those guys? If we carry four running backs, maybe.  With three, definitely not. If we roll with three backs, we need a range of skill-sets.  Two speed backs wouldn't really satisfy that, which would put Hunt on the outside looking in when the 53-man roster is finalized.

The last part of this series will post tomorrow.  In the meantime, what are your thoughts on Grimes and/or Hunt's chances of making the team?