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Red Zone Play: Texans Hope Pope-Ball Pays Off

Part pinball and part scatback, the future looks bright for Troymaine Pope in Houston.

NFL: Houston Texans at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

While there was a lot of excitement around Lamar Miller when he first came over to the Houston Texans as a free agent in 2016, there have been very few running backs in recent memory to generate a real buzz in the offseason.

That is, until Troymaine Pope arrived.

While his name was never called in the 2016 NFL Draft, Pope was later signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Seattle Seahawks. He found himself on the wrong side of the Turk a few months later, but landed in New York with the Jets for a short span before returning to Seattle’s practice squad. He managed to play in three games with Seattle, posting a 3.9 yard rushing average.

A product of Jacksonville State, Pope hasn’t quite followed the path of a far more famous undrafted free agent running back named Arian Foster. But Pope admires another AFC South legend, Maurice Jones-Drew.

While his numbers at running back have yet to set the world on fire, where Pope brings the most excitement in my estimation is the return game. Even though Tyler Ervin has showed improvement this preseason, visions of muffed punts dance through my mind whenever I see Ervin back there as a return man.

When Ervin landed in H-Town, the idea of having a rapid-fire scatback to offset what Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue can do made total sense. Hammer the defense with Blue, get them on their heels with Miller, and then have a slippery speedster jet through the C or D gap for a long run against a tired defense.

As we all know, Ervin has yet to deliver that sort of thing with any regularity, and his ability to find holes in the return game has been suspect at best.

Pope, on the other hand...

While one was called back due to a penalty, Pope has returned two kicks in the preseason for a total of 103 yards.


Yeah, while that’s not likely to happen every time, imagine what Deshaun Watson and crew could do with a starting field position bolstered by a real return game.

Pope has good hands, solid vision, and the ability to find the hole. He’s blessed with the type of speed that breaks plays open and the size to get lost behind the big bodies, making it hard for defenders to keep track of him. While he certainly doesn’t have the massive lower body power of Maurice Jones-Drew, he could become the next Trindon Holiday or, even better, Darren Sproles.

With Houston’s apparent improved special teams scheme under Brad Seely, the benefit of new kickoff rules, and an offensive line that seems to be heading in the right direction, who knows what the future might hold for Troymaine Pope?

Hopefully, it’s a lot of highlight reel plays like he had in college. If not, at least he can spell Lamar Miller and create enough distractions in the backfield to give Watson more time to connect with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V, and Keke Coutee.

What do you think of Pope? Think Houston’s going to make the most of him or cast him off? With final cuts coming soon, let us know who you think lands on the final 2018 running back depth chart.