The Texans hope to take elevate their ground game this season, led by the tandem of Pro Bowler Lamar Miller and a healthy D'Onta Foreman.
"Both guys complement each other well," running backs coach Danny Barrett said. "You have an experienced back and you have a young back. They can feed off of each other. I thought we had a pretty good combination last year with Lamar and Alfred (Blue). I just think D'Onta – again, being the younger back, having a year off has kind of helped his body but also given him a hunger to get back out there.
Even without Foreman for most of the 2018 season, Houston averaged 126.3 yards per game last year, ranking fourth in the AFC and eighth in the NFL. But after losing Alfred Blue in free agency, the Texans have also been looking for a No. 3 back this offseason. Throughout OTAs and minicamp, a number of players have had the opportunity to battle for that spot but a third-year back out of Illinois may be leading the pack after the team's nine-week offseason program.
"I think we have a candidate there in Josh Ferguson who's had a good spring for us," head coach Bill O'Brien said Wednesday. "Hopefully that carries over to training camp for him. But really that position is very unique, that 'sub-back' is what we call it. That third-down back is a very unique position. In the past we've had guys like Arian Foster who was a three-down back. He was awesome in the passing game too, he wasn't just a runner, obviously. Then places I've been before, Kevin Faulk who visited us a couple weeks ago and Danny Woodhead. So, we've had sub-backs and we've got to continue to develop Josh Ferguson and see if he can be that guy. That's something that we're still talking about, evaluating and thinking about."
Ferguson (5-10, 205) appeared in 26 games for the Indianapolis Colts in his first two NFL seasons (2016-17) before the Texans signed him to their practice squad last October. The player that earns that No. 3 running back role should be a good blocker, open-field runner and have the ability to read defenses, according to Barrett.
"Yeah, I think Josh has done a great job," Miller said. "He's more of a smaller guy. He's pretty quick. I was training with him during this offseason, so I know some of the things that he can do to help this team. He's pretty effective out of the backfield, catching the ball. I think he'll make plays. So far he's been taking advantage of his opportunity when the coaches have put him in, doing his assignments, making plays. I think he will help us."
The Texans currently have seven running backs on their roster: Miller, Foreman, Ferguson, special teams player Buddy Howell, nine-year NFL veteran Taiwan Jones and Karan Higdon Jr., the undrafted rookie from Michigan, in addition to rookie fullback Cullen Gillaspia. The backs will get their first test when the pads come at training camp next month.
"I feel like all around, on the offensive side of the ball, we can be an explosive group," Miller said. "We have a great quarterback in Deshaun (Watson). He's been doing a great job communicating, leading the offense. We have playmakers out there at the receiver position, the tight ends and running backs. So, I feel like if we put all that together, we'll be an explosive group."
The Texans finished their offseason program, wrapping up veteran minicamp this week at the Houston Methodist Training Center.
Check out the best shots shots from Day 2 of veteran minicamp. Presented by Houston Methodist.