Are the Texans phasing out running back David Johnson?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

HOUSTON — During the Houston Texans’ 30-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, running back David Johnson rushed for 24 yards on six attempts in the win. Johnson’s play in Jacksonville was his first game after missing the previous contest due to COVID.

But amid his return, Johnson only played the first half of the Week 15 win, with Rex Burkhead taking the majority of the snaps by recording 41 yards on 16 carries.

Burkhead did not have an eye-popping day in terms of his yardage. But Burkhead’s on-field production did enable Houston to sustain offensive drives — something that Johnson has been unable to accomplish throughout the 2021 campaign.

And following his benching against the Jaguars, it could be an indication that Johnson’s days with the Texans are quickly coming to a disheartening end.

“It was just the flow of the game,” coach David Culley said. “He’s got a role. David has a big role with us. It was just the way the flow of the game went. It was just one of those things that sometimes that happens. But his role was just as big as it’s ever been, and it will be that way.”

Wednesday morning, Culley credited an undisclosed injury for Johnson’s benching while reiterating his role within the team has not changed. On the first day of practice ahead of the Texans’ home match against the 8-6 Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, Johnson did not attend.

But with Johnson set to hit free agency next spring, the chances of Nick Caserio re-signing the 30-year-old running back is implausible — despite the justifications for his second-half absence and lack of production.

In 12 games played this season, Johnson has rushed for 200 yards on 62 attempts. His best game of the year took place during the Texans’ Week 12 loss to the New York Jets, where he rushed for a season-best 39 yards on 10 carries.

Out of the five running backs who originally made the 53-man roster in August, Johnson has given the Texans the least productivity out of the backfield this season.

“His lack of production is simply due to injuries,” Culley said. “Had he not gotten injured on Sunday, he would have stayed in the game. His role is still the same. It just so happens that injuries have kept him from what he needed to do this year. His role is still here.”

With the exception of one game missed due to COVID, Johnson’s other absence took place due to a thigh injury when the Texans sustained a 31-0 Week 13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

In hopes of ending the season on a high note, Culley is hopeful that the Texans’ run game will have a minor resurgence given his unwillingness to abandon the run. But Culley’s optimism may not reach its assurance as long as Johnson shares a boatload of the snaps with Burkhead during the final three games of the season.