Asked whether the team plans to add to its RB room before the start of the season in two weeks,Texanscoach Bill O’Brien told reporters Monday that while any roster move is possible, he currently likes his backfield as is.
“I think if you look at our running back situation right now, we have a good situation,” O’Brien said. “I think addingDuke Johnsonwas a good move. He’s been good in the meeting room, in practice, very professional attitude.
“We’ll see what happens. Anything can happen.”
Houston’s running back corps has seen major additions and subtractions this summer. TheTexanscut their 2017 third-round pickD’Onta Foremanon Aug. 4. Then five days later, Houston swung a trade for Johnson, sending a 2020 conditional fourth-round pick back to Cleveland for the back’s services.
TheTexansexpected to go into the season with a one-two punch of Miller and Johnson, giving them one of their best RB tandems in years. But that went out the window when Miller went down on the second play of Saturday’s preseason loss to theDallas Cowboys. Houston officially placed Miller on injured reserve on Monday afternoon.
Behind Johnson on the depth chart are six running backs with 74 career carries and zero career starts on their collective resumes:Damarea Crockett,Josh Ferguson,Cullen Gillaspia,Karan Higdon,Buddy HowellandTaiwan Jones. As the roster currently stands, it’s unclear who will take the bulk of the backup reps; for what it’s worth, Higdon filled in for Miller after the RB left Saturday’s game.
What’s clear now is that Johnson won’t be used in Houston the same way he was in Cleveland. Johnson was rarely an every-down back with theBrowns, though he did log 447 touches for 2,826 yards in his first three seasons. Last year, with the additions ofCarlos HydeandNick Chubb, his production took a downturn; the RB recorded 87 touches for 630 total yards. Upset with his role heading into 2019, he demanded a trade out of Cleveland and eventually got his wish.
“I wouldn’t call him a third-down back,” O’Brien said of Johnson. “I think that he’s a sub-back in some things that he does because that’s how he’s been used in the past. I think with us he’ll be used in a lot of different ways.”
O’Brien also expressed confidence that Johnson will have a full grasp of Houston’s offense come Week 1.
However, if Houston chooses to add another veteran back before the season begins, there are options available.Jay Ajayiis still a free agent. There’s too many viable tailbacks in places like Buffalo and Philadelphia, so potential cut candidates likeT.J. Yeldon,Wendell SmallwoodandJosh Adamswill be up for grabs.
Houston’s running back room is not yet fully furnished, but Johnson looks to be the centerpiece, for now.