Alfred Blue raises his hand to ask a question. The fifth-year running back is not in the meeting room, but in a press conference. He’s decided to have some fun with his position coach, Danny Barrett, who is answering questions from local media.
Blue wants to know when Barrett is going to show highlights of his Canadian Football League playing days.
“One of these days I will show you,” Barrett said. “You know I’m a type of guy – and I’m going to answer your question because you’ve been bugging me about this here. The guy doesn’t believe that I actually played the game. I’ve only showed him a few highlights. I want to show him a full game that he can understand, when you play in the Canadian Football League in the years that I played, they don’t have access to video like they do now. We’ll find it for you though.”
The Texans’ running back room is having fun.
Currently fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game, Houston is averaging 136.45 yards per game on the ground. Through 12 games, Lamar Miller and Blue have been a tag team in the run game.
“The only way that works is because both guys are unselfish,” Barrett said. “I think that’s what we look at, they both are team football players first, as far as having success for the team. So, when we sit down and talk with them, as far as how it’s going to be divvied up, it’s really a feel thing more than anything else. We know Lamar is probably going to go out there first to start the game, and Alfred’s ready to go.”
Miller has 157 carries for 773 yards and three touchdowns. Blue has 115 attempts for 392 yards and one touchdown. Head coach Bill O’Brien and Barrett manage the pitch count for the running backs, though some of it depends on the flow of the game and how Miller and Blue are feeling.
“We want to make sure we’re fresh to finish the drive,” Barrett said. “So, sometimes we’ll sub during the drive, sometimes we’ll let the guys finish the drive off. But, about every third series, we know Alfred’s going to go in there so we’re fresh to finish the game, and I think that’s been the key – to make sure in that fourth quarter that, whoever’s on that football field’s going to be fresh. Especially this late in the season, fourth quarter’s important being able to run the football, and we try to divvy it up like that.”
Miller is coming off a performance where he not only set a record for the longest touchdown run in team history (97 yards), he also made league history. The seven-year veteran averaged an eye-popping 13.5 yards per carry, the highest single-game yards per carry in NFL history among players with at least 12 carries in a game.
“We give all the credit to the offensive line,” Miller said. “Throughout the course of the week, we just tell them, ‘Just get us to the second level.’ Once we get there, we just got to take advantage of it and make big plays.”
In Monday night’s 34-17 win over the Tennessee Titans, Miller averaged 13.5 yards per carry, rushing for 162 yards on just 12 attempts. Blue shouldered the rest of the workload, 13 attempts for 49 yards. The tandem approach to the Texans run game has been working, keeping both backs healthy and productive.
“I think he’s been doing a great job,” Miller said of Blue. “He’s been taking advantage of his opportunity. Me and Blue, we clicked ever since I came here. We stay on each other, make sure we’re doing our assignment, make sure we’re doing anything to help this team win and I think so far, we’ve been doing that. We still have room for improvement but every day we’re just trying to get better.”
The (8-3) Texans will next host the (4-6-1) Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Kickoff is set for 12 noon CT on CBS and SportsRadio 610.