Texans not looking to make changes at backup running back


(SportsRadio 610) - Most teams around the NFL have a competent 1-2 punch at running back.

Take the Texans' first three opponents this season as examples. Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, who led the league in rushing last year, is backed up by Nyheim Hines. While Hines has only seven carries for 11 yards so far this season, he remains a part of their passing game and he's playing behind one of the league's top backs.

Broncos running backs Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III averaged 5 yards and 4.7 yards per carry, respectively, in their week two 16-9 win against the Texans.

Then in week three, Bears backup running back Khalil Herbert entered the game for injured starter David Montgomery in the first quarter and proceeded to gash the Texans for 157 yards.

Meanwhile for Houston, the only reliable back at this point is rookie Dameon Pierce, who also ran by committee when he played college ball at Florida.

It's impossible to expect Pierce to play every down, especially if he's supposed to be the top back on what quarterback Davis Mills has described as "a ground and pound" team.

It means someone has to give him a breather at times. The Texans seemed satisfied with that second back being 32-year-old veteran Rex Burkhead.

They inexplicably allowed Burkhead to run the ball 14 times for 40 yards in week one. He didn't carry it all in Denver (two catches or 9 yards).

In Chicago, Burkhead ran it just three times for 9 yards, but was in the game at its most critical moments, including being targeted on the Davis Mills third-down fourth-quarter interception that sealed it for the Bears. Pierce was likely benched for fumbling twice, though both times it was recovered by the Texans.

Fact is, Burkhead has never been the running back Houston's coaching staff and management are trying to make him.

Burkhead ran the ball last year for the Texans 122 times for 427 yards, both career highs by far. In an ideal world, especially at this age, the former Patriot is a third option at running back.

When Texans head coach Lovie Smith was asked about the importance of getting production from more than one running back and whether they would consider making changes, he said they like what they have at the position.

“I think it’s very important," Smith said. "I think most teams play two guys. They feel pretty good about two guys. ...

"We like our running backs that we have. Dameon (Pierce) has got to protect the football better. The times that he’s played all three games, we like what our one running back has done. It’s pretty had to get three running backs involved. Rex (Burkhead) in his role will continue. I’ve seen signs of improvement each week. It’s not where it needs to be. A lot of time with the running game too, you’ve got to have some explosive in there. Some explosive runs and then it looks a whole lot better. That’s what they were able to do yesterday. Eventually, we’ll get that."

Only five teams have fewer rushing yards (249) than the Texans through three games. Only six teams are averaging fewer yards per carry (3.6). Just four teams are less efficient in the run game, according to Football Outsiders' DVOA metric.

Brandon Scott is the editor for SportsRadio610.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandonkscottReach him directly via email: brandon.scott@audacy.com.

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