The Houston Texans have reported to training camp and the ground game has undergone major changes with the addition of former First-Team All-Pro David Johnson joining last year's receiving back Duke Johnson.
"Oh, we're going to be a lethal threat, me and Duke," David Johnson said Thursday via Zoom. "Not just as running, but as catching the ball. Really making defenses have to try to figure out if they go base or sub. We're going to try to really expose their defense. Whatever they give us, we're going to definitely be able to use that as an advantage for us and we're going to be able to really help out this offense and this Texans organization."
After an offseason of meetings, the Houston Texans running backs are just days away until the full pads are on for practices. David Johnson, now in his sixth NFL season and first with the Texans, believes the intra-squad practices and work in pads is essential in fine-tuning his game.
"For me, it's going to be very, very important for these outside practices and just because I am learning more on the field," Johnson said. "Just the timing of the blocking, being able to correlate with Deshaun (Watson) and his tendencies throwing the ball to me. Being able to run the ball between the tackles outside and just being out on the field is going to help me a lot compared to Zoom."
After being traded from the Arizona Cardinals in March, Johnson now joins the other Johnson, Duke, in the Texans backfield. Last year, Duke Johnson recorded 820 yards from scrimmage (410 rushing, 410 receiving) and scored two rushing and three receiving touchdowns in his 16 games with three starts for Houston. Both Johnsons have proven themselves to be dual-threat backs, both on the ground and in the passing game.
"Both guys are, I believe, three-down backs," head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien said. "They can play on all three downs. They can run it. They can catch the ball out of the backfield, really smart guys. Really good communicators. I would say David's come in here and been very impressive. In fantastic shape, smart, really picking up the offense well. We saw that in the spring. To see him in here in the walkthroughs and things we're doing, I think he has high expectations for himself. That's the type of guy he is. We have high expectations for him."
David Johnson replaces Lamar Miller and Carlos Hyde who departed in free agency. Johnson led the NFL with 20 touchdowns during his 2016 campaign. In addition to David and Duke Johnson, the Texans will be looking to add depth in the backfield. A number of players will be competing for a roster spot, including returning special teams standout Buddy Howell, Karan Higdon Jr. from last year's practice squad and rookie Scottie Phillips.
"We have Buddy Howell coming back from last year, a great special teams player," running backs coach Danny Barrett said. "He understood his role last year as well, and how he fit into the offense, being prepared at a moment's notice. Karan Higdon (Jr.) has also come back. Even though he was on the practice squad last year, he has come back. He's stronger, he's looking like he's faster this year, quicker. Again, having that year under his belt learning our offense has made a big difference now without the offseason program. Those two guys right now figure to go head-to-head at it. Again, it obviously comes down to their role on special teams as being as who that guy will be."
The Texans 2020 training camp is currently underway at the Houston Methodist Training Center.
Houston Texans players report for their first day of conditioning for the 2020 NFL Season at the Houston Methodist Training Center.