A few weeks back, I took a deep dive into the quarterbacks that the Texans would face in 2021. It's a strong group, but does pale in some sense to the Quarterback Murderer's Row they faced last year. The running backs? Well, in 2020, the Texans faced eight of the top nine leading rushers in the league (Raiders star Josh Jacobs was the only back they didn't face in 2020). Unfortunately, 2021 features some of the same names and faces on the schedule. Let's take a look at the group the Texans will presumably face in 2021.
2020 starter - Derrick Henry
2021 presumed starter - Henry
Week 15 in 2019, the Texans bottled Henry up in a key December matchup to take control of the AFC South. In every matchup since, Henry has run for 211+ yards; furthermore, he led the league in rushing for the second consecutive season, which seemed like an impossibility after signing a second contract in 2020. Alas, the Texans will face Henry in week 11 and week 18. Buckle up, boys.
2020 starter - Jonathan Taylor
2021 presumed starter - Taylor
Taylor caught fire a few weeks before his first matchup with the Texans in his rookie season in 2020. Taylor was held under 100 yards rushing in each matchup, but he did average six yards a carry in those two matchups with the Texans. Oh, yeah, Marlon Mack returns alongside Taylor and third down star Nyheim Hines. Taylor did finish third in the league in rushing with 1,169 yards.
2020 starter - James Robinson
2021 presumed starter - Robinson with a little Carlos Hyde and rookie Travis Etienne mixed in.
Robinson was an undrafted rookie who found a way to snatch the starting position prior to week one of the season. He then went on to post a top five rushing performance (1,070) and could be even better in 2021.
*In the AFC South, alone, the Texans will face three of the top six rushers in the NFL from 2020.
Running backs the Texans will face again in 2021
New England - Damien Harris, mainly
Harris started the game like he was going to have a career day, but the Texans slowed him down in the second half after taking a double digit lead. New England could have any number of backs ready to roll in week five, but more than likely, Harris will lead the way.
Cleveland - Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt
Chubb finished the season seventh in the league in rushing and had a banner day against the Texans defense in the worst weather game of 2020 in Cleveland. Hunt was 16th in the league as Chubb's main backup/complement. Together? They're as nasty as the wind off of Lake Erie.
The Texans have the unfortunate luck of facing a healthy Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) a couple years after he had one of the best games of his career against Houston in 2019. He was banged up for most of 2020 but if he's fresh for the week three Thursday night matchup in Houston, look out.
I was a huge fan of former Florida State star Cam Akers coming out of college in 2020. He took over as the Los Angeles Rams star ball carrier throughout the back half of the 2020 season and should burst on the national scene even more so in 2021.
Oh, lest I forget, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray ran for 819 yards in 2020 and was 17th in the league in rushing. So, running back or not, Murray is a massive weapon on the ground for the Cards at all times.
The Texans will face four of the top seven leading rushers from 2020 and a rejuvenated McCaffery, at a minimum. Throw in a matchup against a top notch explosive running quarterback in week seven and the Texans run defense will be seriously tested again. The run defense struggled in 2020 and this group of running backs will put it to the test again in 2021.