A big part of the Houston Texans’ high flying offense is their newfound ability to field two running backs who can not only run the rock, but also catch passes out of the backfield, allowing new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly the ability to disguise plays while giving newly minted franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson a variety of targets on each and every pass play.
Enter Duke Johnson Jr. and David Johnson. Johnson & Johnson, the Houston Texans’ backfield tandem, are two of the most lethal pass catching tailbacks in the NFL today.
Highest number of routes run at least 10 yards down the field by RBs, since 2017:— PFF (@PFF) September 2, 2020
1. Alvin Kamara 163
2. David Johnson 162
3. Duke Johnson Jr. 157
4. James White 147 pic.twitter.com/OjpAltTqfh
Unfortunately, Duke Johnson Jr. suffered an ankle injury in Thursday night’s loss to the Patrick Mahomes led Kansas City Chiefs; ultimately, the running back who had the most success that night was Chiefs’ rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who racked up 20 more yards than the entire Texans tailback crew, all by himself.
Duke Johnson Jr. Sprains Ankle
Now it seems Duke Johnson Jr, who ran for 14 whole yards and caught 0 passes for 0 yards Thursday night, won’t be able to put forth a better effort this weekend when Houston takes on Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.
#Texans RB Duke Johnson, who sprained his ankle on Thursday night, is considered week-to-week and is a long-shot to play this week against the #Ravens, source said. However, playing in Week 3 is possible, an indication it’s not a serious injury.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 14, 2020
While leaving David Johnson, who had 11 carries for 77 yards (a wonderful 7.0 yard per carry average), 1 touchdown, 3 catches for 32 yards and 10.7 yards per catch, along with Deshaun Watson to carry the ground game isn’t the worst thing ever, rolling out C.J. Prosise—a player some call a “poor man’s Duke Johnson Jr.”, Scottie Phillips—whom has been referred to as “the next Arian Foster” or Buddy Howell won’t allow the Texans to disguise much of anything.
It’s time for one of those three to step up.
As you can see from the above video, Prosise has hands, can get open, and can still run the ball. Is he Duke Johnson Jr. Part II? Maybe not. Based on how David Johnson woke up in Week 1 from where he was last season, maybe Prosise can do the same in a new system.
Not necessarily the second coming of Charlie Waters, Scottie Phillips is more of a shake ‘n bake, ‘make ‘em miss’ style back. Any solid offensive coordinator can game plan to use this after David Johnson has worn the defense down a little. This weekend could be Phillips’s chance to put his name on the NFL map.
Buddy Howell is more of a one cut, downhill runner looking to make someone pay for getting in his way. It would pretty easy to draw up a game plan where Howell hammers the defense and Phillips comes in to fake ‘em out of their tired cleats.
To say none of these guys can step up and do what Houston needs done this weekend is foolish. Expecting them to do so without a large sample size of greatness is also not the most pragmatic notion either. Which leaves us with the only thing Houston fans have to cling to these days: Hope.
With DeAndre Hopkins outclassing the entire Texans wide receiving corps this week in his debut with the Arizona Cardinals, this is David Johnson’s chance to shine, or Prosise, Phillips, or Howell’s shot at greatness. For David Johnson, it will be a little bit harder without running mate Duke Johnson Jr. there to take some focus off him unless one of the other three embraces the ‘next man up’ mentality and makes a move.