This week, when three linebackers were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, interim head coach Romeo Crennel spoke to the team about being the 'next man up.'
Duke Johnson listened intently, but didn't realize that would also apply to him during Sunday's game at Jacksonville. Early in the first quarter, David Johnson took a punishing hit from Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack. The Texans starting running back left to be evaluated for a concussion and didn't return.
Duke was the next man up and he was ready.
"That's all it was," Johnson said. "Preparation, being ready, practice like I'm going to play, like I did today."
Duke Johnson, a six-year veteran now in his second season with the Texans, has taken on a bigger role in recent weeks. Because of that, the transition from David to Duke in the Texans' 27-25 win over the Jaguars was smooth one.
"Both of them can execute the game plan," Crennel said. "And then the last game, you know, we started getting Duke in a little bit more, played a little bit more on third down last game and then some on first and second where he stayed in after a third-down play. We have confidence in both guys, even though they're a little bit different type runners, but they both are effective in gaining yards, picking up the blitz. And so he fit right into our package."
Johnson ran for a season-high 41 yards on 16 carries and averaged 8.0 yards per reception on his four passes for 32 yards. He also scored on a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to give Houston a 20-13 lead. Johnson's touchdown run came after a 16-yard scramble by Deshaun Watson to get the Texans to first-and-goal at the one-yard line. Watson threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns and also added a team-high 50 yards rushing on 10 carries.
"Just his ability to make plays out of nothing," Johnson said. "A lot of times they use his legs to give us the first down when we needed it. The read that he wanted to throw the ball wasn't there. So he took off and had a lot of crucial routes for us today."
Duke Johnson owns the third-most receptions (293), second-most receiving yards (2,689), third-most receiving first downs (125) and second-most receptions of at least 20 yards (31) by an NFL running back since 2015.