Texans want to get Duke Johnson on field for earlier downs

By SportsRadio 610

HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610) -- In searching for answers to why the Texans’ running game has failed so far this season, offensive coaches are looking at how players are being used.

Or in the case of backup running back Duke Johnson, when and often the player is on the field.

Running backs coach Danny Barrett said Tuesday they want to get Duke Johnson on the field more on first and second down situations.

Duke Johnson is a more patient runner than David Johnson, the Texans’ starter who they traded for DeAndre Hopkins in the offseason.

David has the bulk of the workload, with 101 carries for 392 yards and three touchdowns in seven games. Duke has 54 yards on 18 carries, but missed two games with an ankle injury.

Only five teams average fewer yards per carry than the Texans.

Barrett spoke about David Johnson’s lack of patience finding holes, sometimes trying to do too much rather than take what is given. Barrett said he believes getting Duke Johnson on the field more in earlier downs, more than just third down, could help the running game.

“I think David (Johnson) is more of a power runner, more straight up, down-the-field type of deal. Have to work with him on getting his pads down more than anything else,” Barrett said. “And Duke (Johnson), with just his style of running, he's not as fast as David, but I think with his feet and the ability to make a guy miss in the hole, that's where you'll see the difference. He'll press and cut and get behind the blocks maybe more because of the size than everything else. That would be the biggest difference, I would say.”

Offensive line coach Mike Devlin admitted Tuesday that he has not done a great job of recognizing mismatches, particularly for the interior part of the line, where the Texans have struggled to run block and at times, pass protect.

If they can figure out how to coach around their limitations, and maximize Duke Johnson as the more patient, shiftier back who can make defenders miss, the running game can be better than one that ranks 31st in efficiency.