Given that the Houston Texans have had one 1,000-yard rusher in the past five seasons, they could do with running back Marlon Mack returning to his best.
But Mack is a player whose name has come up a lot in recent weeks during interviews with coaches. Running backs coach Danny Barrett has seen some pre-injury spark back in Mack's performances.
"He's come in and done a good job," Barrett said. "Since that first week, everything has been smooth sailing for him. And I think he's gotten his confidence back to the level at which he was playing at prior to his injury. You can see the burst and the speed that shows up which he showed prior to the injury. So we're looking forward to him coming back in the fall and making that room better."
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Formerly the starting back for the Indianapolis Colts, Mack rushed for 1,999 yards and 17 touchdowns during his prime (2018-19).
His career took a turn after his sole 1,000-year rushing season, starting just one game in 2020 before tearing his Achilles. And while he came back healthy in 2021, he tumbled down the depth chart, making just six appearances before being left inactive from Weeks 9-18, primarily as a healthy scratch.
If - and it's a big if - Mack is indeed showing signs of his pre-injury burst and speed then it wouldn't come as a surprise if he's named the starting back come Week 1.
In theory, this would allow the Texans to ease Pierce in as the season wears on, something they did with multiple rookies last season.