Rex Burkhead didn’t join an NFL roster until June. He didn’t sign with the Houston Texans to much praise or hype. He didn't have a single carry in the preseason. He didn't make a significant impact for most of the regular season. He wasn’t even Houston’s RB3 for most of the year.
But what Rex has done is quietly supplant the entire Texans running back room in less than a season. Phillip Lindsay, cut. Mark Ingram, traded. David Johnson, benched/sick/injured. Burkhead just ran for a career high amount of yards with an entirely random cast of offensive linemen.
Rex Burkhead ran for a career-high 149 rushing yards in the #Texans upset 41-29 victory over the Chargers.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 26, 2021
Burkhead gained a majority of his production inside the tackles:
15 carries, 122 yards, TD
+64 RYOE (3rd-most in a game this season)#LACvsHOU | #WeAreTexans pic.twitter.com/rwayGlYifv
And now, Burkhead has forced the Texans to rethink their backfield heading into 2022. What was a three-headed monster turned into a Medusa-type creature of sorts with five running backs and has now turned into a one man show with Royce Freeman as comedic relief.
Burkhead’s 95 yards after contact were the second most by a Texans player since ESPN began tracking YAC in 2006.
At 31, Burkhead doesn’t have too much left in the tank, or so we thought. Considering he has never been a true RB1, he hasn’t lost too much tread off his tires over the years. He did end last season with an ACL tear, but has made a miraculous return. A couple hip injuries this year have nagged him, but Rex hasn’t looked this powerful running the ball in years.
Burkhead signed a one-year, $1.5M contract in June. That’s not much of a cap hit, and Burkhead’s performance was worth every penny. Even if Burkhead continues his success over the next couple weeks, he won’t warrant much attention in the free agent market. How many teams will be willing to pick up the tab on a 32 year old running back with one ACL? Not many. That should allow the Texans to re-sign Burkhead on the cheap. Let’s say a two-year, $2.25 million contract?
Given Burkhead is coming off the best performance of his career against a poor defense without its two best players, this week’s game against an equally desperate and equally injured 49ers team will be a true test of Burkhead’s longer-term possibilities for the franchise.