Last week, I looked ahead to the start of the season with the top 5 quarterbacks the Texans will face in 2016. So, let's move forward with the top 5 running backs Houston will see this season.
Similar to the league dynamic, the league's running backs aren't quite at the level of the quarterbacks and pass catchers in the NFL currently. That might change in the next two or three years with the game-changing running backs that are in the college game. But, Leonard Fournette, Samaje Perine, Christian McCaffrey and company have some college work to do before entering the league.
If you made a list of the top ten RBs in the league, the Texans would avoid playing all but one or two on the list. No Todd Gurley. No Shady McCoy. No David Johnson. No Le'Veon Bell. No Doug Martin (THE MUSCLE HAMSTER!). Marshawn Lynch retired. That's all good news. The bad news? These five (and then some), including arguably the best back in the league, are on the schedule.5. Jeremy Hill, Bengals Hill flat out scares me every time the Texans play the Bengals. The problem is that he can be inconsistent and you just never know which Hill is on the field that day. In 2014, against Houston, he averaged nearly five yards per carry and ran for a touchdown. In 2015, though, the Texans held him to 15 yards on seven carries. He's such a load (6-1, 235 lb.) to bring down that if he gets rolling behind that Bengals offensive line, he can be difficult to stop for a full 60 minutes.
- Demarco Murray/Derrick Henry, Titans**
Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said he wanted to be an exotic smash mouth team and the trade for Murray and the draft selection of Henry prove just that. Murray led the league in rushing in 2014 but struggled in Philadelphia last year, registering only 702 yards on 193 carries. Henry was the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner after rushing for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns.
3. T.J. Yeldon/Chris Ivory, Jaguars
Every time I'm on the radio in Jacksonville and I bring up the fact that the Jaguars have never faced Jadeveon Clowney and they always remind me that the Texans have never faced Yeldon, Henry's teammate at Alabama for two years. Yeldon did have a solid start to his career with 740 yards and 36 receptions out of the backfield. The Texans did see Ivory with the Jets last year, but he might be even more effective alongside Yeldon, formulating a strong 1-2 punch in Duval County.
2. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Although Charles missed a significant portion of the season with another knee injury, he should return 100 percent healthy to the Chiefs offense in 2016. That's scary. He can change the game in a heartbeat with his ability to get the edge, split a seam and take it to the house. He can also be such a tough matchup in the passing game. Keep this in mind... in 2012 after missing all of 2011 with an ACL tear, he had a career-best rushing season (1,509 yards). Combine all of those aspects and he's a definite top two back on this list.
1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
All Peterson did in his return to the NFL was lead the league in rushing yards with 1,485 yards, his highest total since his 2,097 yard performance in 2012. Even with Teddy Bridgewater under center, he's the purple straw stirring the offensive drink in Minnesota and will do so for a while. The 31-year old, ten-year veteran showed no signs of slowing down any time soon and that's not great news for the Texans when they venture up to Minneapolis on October 9th.