HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610) -- Texans running back David Johnson is probably in the best shape of anybody on the team, head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien said Friday.
Johnson is the most versatile running the Texans have had since Arian Foster, who played for Houston from 2009 to 2015.
Johnson, like Foster, has a combination of size, speed and pass catching ability.
Even with the success of Lamar Miller and Carlos Hyde, the Texans haven’t used a running back with skills like Johnson’s.
There has been a lot of criticism toward the Texans for acquiring Johnson, the centerpiece of the DeAndre Hopkins trade.
Johnson was an All-Pro in 2016, but has not performed to that level in years since. O’Brien is relying on Johnson and Duke Johnson to be three-down backs who pose threats between the tackles and as receivers.
“Arian Foster was a great three-down back. He was an excellent receiver out of the backfield. He had good size, great vision in the running game,” O’Brien said on Texans All Access when asked if he’s coached a running back like David Johnson. “Not trying to get into comparisons or anything like that, but since then, we really haven’t had that guy until now with David Johnson. We’ve got a three-down back that can run the football. He’s a really good receiver out of the backfield. Very smart, very professional. We think he’s gotten off to a great start. He’s come back in excellent shape.
“Pound for pound, he’s probably in the best shape of anybody on our team. He’s had a really good start to training camp here. We’ve just got to keep him healthy and have a chance to get him the ball. Same thing with Duke Johnson. Duke Johnson’s had a good camp. I think both of those guys in the backfield give us a lot of versatility.”
Johnson spoke last week about posing “a lethal threat” with Duke Johnson. The two of them will make defenses decide whether to run their base or sub packages, and then try to take advantage of whichever decision is made.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson said between the two backs, there is no telling who will get the ball.
David Johnson probably won’t replicate his All-Pro 2016 season, but if he can be as good as O’Brien and Watson think he is, it will be worth watching.
The Texans also have second-year fullback Cullen Gillaspia, a Katy-Taylor product who played college ball at Texas A&M.
Gillaspia is a core special teams player who O’Brien says can do a lot from the backfield.
Buddy Howell, another core special teams player, could also be used at running back. And Karan Higdon, who spent the 2019 season on the Texans’ practice squad, is back in great shape and competing for a roster spot, O’Brien said.
Scottie Phillips, an undrafted free agent rookie from Ole Miss, is also competing for a place on the team.
“In some ways, it’s very competitive, relative to the 53-man roster,” O’Brien told reporters Friday morning on a Zoom conference call. “Duke and David are doing good. Cullen is doing a good job. It’s a very good group, it’s a very good room.”