'Sir Duke': An Uptick for Johnson's Role With Texans?

Anthony R Wood

Throughout the 2020 season, the Houston Texans have repeatedly tried to establish a run game. And try as they might, success has eluded them to date. However, it appears the coaching staff is considering a change. ... that might fuel a change in the name of Duke Johnson.

Starting running back David Johnson may be costing the franchise a burdensome $10.2 million in base salary this year, but with just 392 yards on 101 carries, they have yet to see much of a return. 

"He's done a good job coming in and learning the scheme," said offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said of David. "You’ve seen him make big plays in the passing game. Had a big 16-yard reception last week to put us, I believe, it got us to the two-yard line. He was good in the two-minute drill. He's been able to show his versatility. He's had some success running on the outside."

'Some success' is perhaps a slight exaggeration given that David is averaging just 56 rushing yards per game. 

Currently sitting 30th in the NFL in total rushing yards, a change is needed in personnel ... and it seems that one is in the pipeline.

"(We'll be) trying to get Duke (Johnson) more opportunities, more so than just third downs," said running backs coach Danny Barrett. "Probably getting him on the field a little bit more on first- and second-down situations. 

"He's a little different style of runner, patience, and everything."

One-win Houston could use some "everything.''

Used primarily as a receiver throughout his NFL career, Duke is a capable runner who had 410 yards rushing as the backup to Carlos Hyde in Houston last season, though the former Cleveland Brown has had just 18 carries this season.

However, while Duke might be taking a more active role in this rushing offense could help, the offensive line must improve their run blocking. At times this season, guard Senio Kelemente, Zach Fulton, and Max Scharping have struggled in their blocking, to say the least.

"We do need more space, I'd be the first to say that," said Barrett on Tuesday. "(Offensive line coach Mike Devlin) would say that. We all need more space. Not enough for myself to get through but for those guys to get through. They've shown that when they have some space, they can make it happen. We talk about it every week, if they can get it up to the second level, now it's up to us. We need to find ways once we get to the second level, to make a guy miss in space, and be able to get some chunk plays."

While 'chunk plays' would be a welcome sight to the forlorn Texans fans, at this point, a consistent ground attack would be equally welcome. So maybe a change in backs is the best Houston can do at this point in time to reboot the fun after their Week 7 bye. If nothing else, let's hope Duke can provide a spark to an otherwise fledgling run game.

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