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Running Game To Take Spotlight In 2021

Keep running and running and running.

NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans loved to ESTABLISH THE RUN during the Bill O’Brien era—despite the fact that he eventually had a franchise quarterback at his disposal, and running is less efficient than passing—see four yards a carry compared to seven yards an attempt you plebeians. According to Sarah Barshop, the David Culley offense will largely be run-oriented.

Tim Kelly: “There’s this thing about ball control and part of having ball control and being able to control the clock is running the football as well as when you do throw it, completing passes. That’s why that’s important. That’s why, hopefully, we’re going to be a little better than we were last year at doing that and still maintain the effectiveness that we’ve had throwing the ball here in the past.”

Barshop makes a really good point throughout the article that with Deshaun Watson likely being unavailable, this team will be forced to run the ball more than they have. Which, surprisingly, the team actually didn’t do all that much of last season.

In 2020, the Texans ran a designed run 29.4% of the time. According to ESPN Stats & Info, which has been tracking designed runs since 2006, that’s the second-lowest percentage by a team in a single season in that span.

I guess the runs were so bad last season that each one felt four times as dreadful than usual. If you weren’t excited to see David Johnson crash into a wall before, well, maybe don’t get much more excited.

Last season, the Texans ranked last in Football Outsiders’ rushing DVOA. David Johnson, who restructured his contract this offseason to stay in Houston, ran for 691 yards and six touchdowns on 147 carries in 12 games last season. The running game ranked 15th in yards before contact per rush (2.74), 21st in yards after contact per rush (1.52) and 12th in third-down rush conversion percentage (57%).

However, we now have shiny new running backs in Mark Ingram and Philip Lindsay. That should be enough to move the needle, right? It actually starts to make sense why there has seemingly been a mad dash for ball carriers this season, they’re going to be worked to the absolute bone so there has to be a rotation. I don’t think anyone is expecting Tyrod Taylor or Davis Mills to produce 1/5th of the offense that Watson brought to the table.

Regardless, this team’s identity is now centered around competition and putting a heavier emphasis on some good ol’ smash mouth football. As Thanos once said “Perfectly balanced... as all things should be”.