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Duke Johnson Needs More Touches

The Texans receiving back needs the ball more often.

NFL: Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans acquired running Duke Johnson during the 2019 off-season with the hopes of providing a receiving option out of the backfield for Deshaun Watson. They needed a versatile back who co lineup anywhere on the field and produce for the offense. Johnson has done this every time he steps on the field. The problem is, he hasn’t had many opportunities to do so.

Johnson has a total of 724 yards this season, 390 rushing and 334 receiving. Johnson is averaging 5.2 yards per carry as well as 9.3 yards a reception. In 111 total touches (75 rushing attempts and 36 receptions), Johnson averages 6.52 yards a touch. In other words, when Duke touches the ball, usually good things happen. The question is, why don’t the Texans involve him in the offense more?

In 13 games played, Johnson averages 8.5 touches per contest. For a player who gains more than 6 yards when he has the ball, that is far too low for him. He wanted out of Cleveland because he wasn’t involved enough in the offense. Known to be a pass-catching back, his 36 receptions this season is the lowest in his five-year career. I understand that he splits time in the backfield with Carlos Hyde, and he is on an offense with all-world talents like wide receivers Deandre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Kenny Stills, and tight ends Darren Fells, and Jordan Thomas. There’s only one football, so someone will get the short end of the stick. However, none of the names mentioned are as versatile and as productive as Johnson, with the exception of Hopkins.

Each Johnson touche increases the chances of the Texans winning. The Texans are 3-1 in games where Johnson touches the ball more than ten times, with the only loss coming against the New Orleans Saints after a game winning field goal in week one. In games where Duke Johnson scores a touchdown, the Texans are 4-0. Against the then 10-1 New England Patriots, Johnson had a total of 14 touches for 90 yards and a touchdown, resulting in a victory over Tom Brady. Against the Chiefs, Johnson contributed to beating reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes with a receiving TD. It’s wise to use him more if the Texans want a better chance of winning football games.

With a rare ability to make defenders miss, running great routes, and being a match-up nightmare out the backfield, Duke Johnson needs more touches in the Texans’ offense. Lining him up against a linebacker in the red zone is a guaranteed touchdown. The Texans gave up a conditional fourth round pick that has since become a third in order to get him. That’s a steep price to pay for a back that you aren’t giving many touches to.

Having the ball in his hands will be crucial as the Texans AFC South title hopes are on the line. If they want to have a shot at the division as well as a deep playoff run, Duke needs the rock more than 8.5 times a game.