With Ben Tate still playing through four cracked ribs and limited in practice, coaches told rookie Dennis Johnson he see more carries in Sunday's game against the Jaguars.
"They kept saying I was going to get the ball this week, but I mean, I was kind of surprised," Johnson said after the game.
Johnson's playing time increased even more so when Tate, injured in Week 7 at Kansas City, was held to just four rushing yards in five attempts in the first quarter against Jacksonville. Tate finished the day with seven carries for one yard.
In the 13-6 loss, Johnson led the Texans in rushing with a season-high 74 yards on 13 carries. The undrafted rookie, signed to the active roster on October 28, also had a career-long 29 yard run in the second quarter. On the same drive, Johnson added 18 yards rushing and short pass for 9 yards to set up a 49-yard field goal by Randy Bullock.
Head coach Gary Kubiak liked the success he saw Johnson having against Jacksonville and increased his playing time accordingly.
"We had planned on playing DJ (Johnson) some, but when he went in and he just looked so good running the ball so we played him a little bit more," Kubiak said. "It's just the way it happened. Ben hadn't been practicing all week; he's just been playing for us. Obviously, DJ did some good stuff so I left him in the game."
Johnson was a standout player in training camp but was cut after preseason and landed on the Browns' practice squad. Now back in Houston, he has impressed coaches who see potential in the 5-foot-7 running back.
"I think we have to be encouraged by some of the things he's done," Kubiak said after the game. "He was able to hold up in some protection roles today. I think we have to be excited about some of the things he's done as a young player."