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Red Zone Play: Carlos Ain’t Hyde’n No More

The Texans should have brought Hyde in years ago.

Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

At 6’0” and 238 lbs, Carlos Hyde is built like the prototype tailback for Bill O’Brien’s establish the A-Gap and dominate the run game offense we’ve witnessed the last 6 seasons. While Hyde was just a rookie in O’Brien’s rookie year of head coaching at the NFL level, between March of 2018 and the day he was traded to the Texans for Martinas Rankin, Hyde played in Cleveland, Jacksonville and Kansas City.

So far this year, Hyde has racked up 704 rushing yards, the third highest total of his career. At this rate (granted, the 160 yard breakout last weekend against the Jaguars skews this a little), he’s on pace for 1,251 rushing yards this year, by far his best season ever. Not bad for a running back 31 other teams didn’t see any value in last summer.

While Hyde isn’t perfect, he is perfectly suited for Bill O’Brien’s offense. The long run where he allowed Jacksonville to strip the ball away at the goal line will hopefully remind him of the Pop Warner level technique of moving the ball to the arm away from the center of the field and put four points of contact on it when a defender is near, but let’s face it...Alfred Blue never would have had a game (or run) like that.

This is the sort of play that shows just why Hyde is so well suited for the Texans. Protection breaks down for Deshaun Watson, but he sees Hyde and lets him turn nothing into something:

While Hyde is no Arian Foster, he seems like the best replacement Houston has had for Foster, including Lamar Miller. The really scary thing is teammate Duke Johnson has a higher yards per carry average so far at 5.9.

At this stage, with the magic Deshaun Watson displays weekly, the solid receiving corps, great tight end play, and growth across the offensive line, when you put together the total package of Houston’s current offense, they’ve finally achieved the franchise Red Zone we’ve been tracking since this column began in the days of yesteryear... or was it the time of yore? Who knows? Anyway, it’s great to finally see a potent offense on the field for Houston.

With two weeks off to prepare for the Baltimore Ravens, followed by games at home against the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots, Bill O’Brien and his staff have a season defining stretch staring them in the face coming out of the bye. If they can knock off either the Ravens or Patriots, Houston has a legit shot at a double digit winning season, something many of us didn’t expect back in August.

The real defining moment will be when the Colts come to H-Town on Thursday, November 21st. With only 4 days to recover and prepare for the nationally televised division rivalry after playing the Ravens in Baltimore, that game may well determine where the Texans ultimately land this year. The Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (currently the Texans’ Week 16 opponent and part of the swing schedule) have the best run defense in the league right now. The Patriots and Colts are middle of the pack. Aside from Baltimore, the Patriots really haven’t been tested by the ground game. If Bill O’Brien can get Carlos Hyde going early and often and keep Tom Brady off the field, Deshaun Watson should be able to add his magic ensuring the Texans win against New England.

One thing is for sure. In the cacophony of offseason moves this year, hardly anyone thought the addition of Carlos Hyde was going to be the literal game-changer it has been. Hopefully we’ve yet to see Hyde’s peak performance.

With the resurgence of the Houston running game under Hyde and Johnson, the flat earth management team will have some serious decisions to make in the offseason. Lamar Miller is an unrestricted free agent after this season. Carlos Hyde is also an unrestricted free agent after this season. Duke Johnson is under contract through 2021, counting $4.1 mil against the cap next year and $5.1 mil against in in 2021. At that time, decisions will need to be made. It might be in the Texans’ best interest to lock up Hyde beyond this season right now.

If you were the general manager flat earth manager, what would you do? Re-sign Hyde now? Wait until the offseason when Houston brings possibly attempts to bring in another general manager? Figure this is the one-year of Hyde worth having and let him go to keep Lamar Miller? Try to keep all three RBs? Put your emperor of the universe hat on and let us know in the comments box.