The Texans entered the 2021 season with four veteran running backs that totaled more rushing yardage than any teams' group of running backs in the league. After the 2021 season and 2022 offseason, the Texans will start OTAs with just one running back remaining of those four that made last year's 53-man roster. They've added two new veteran tailbacks, one new fullback and a rookie ball carrier who's going to leave a punishing mark on defenders. Perhaps no position group has changed more in one calendar year's time than the running back crew. Let's take a look at the makeup of this group heading into phase three of the offseason.
Returning players from 2021 squad (in order of snaps played in 2021)
Rex Burkhead - 378 snaps at TB (35.5% of total snaps)
When the 2021 season started, Burkhead was not the main ball carrier for the team. He bided his time and got an opportunity after the bye week to truly become RB1. The highwater mark was the 149 yards he ran for in a win over the Chargers at home in which he dominated the game from jump. He started five times last year and set a career high mark in rushing yards with 427. Late in the 2021 season, he re-upped with the Texans and he seems to have juice left on into his 30s. He'll have different company in the running back room to start OTAs than he did in 2021, but that should make the group better, led by Burkhead.
Royce Freeman - 115 snaps at TB (10.8% of total snaps
Freeman returned to the Texans after he finished the last half of the 2021 season with the Texans. He was active in seven games, piling up 35 carries and 92 yards in those games down the stretch. He just turned 26 so he should have plenty of tread on the tire remaining as he heads into his fifth year in the league.
Paul Quessenberry - 1 snap at FB (.09% of total snaps
Quessenberry was on the Texans practice squad for much of the 2021 season and he signed a future/reserve contract this offseason to stay with the Texans in 2022. Then, his brother OL Scott signed with the Texans to make it TWO Quessenberrys in Houston for 2022 as well. Pau is the quintessential fullback, in that, he doesn't need a carry or any carries, just a body in a different colored jersey to strike.
Darius 'Jet' Anderson - Practice squad in 202
The former TCU/George Ranch HS star was added to the Texans practice squad late in the 2021 season. He signed a futures contract in January and will be able to show off that Fort Bend county speed in 2022.
2022 Veterans AdditionsMarlon Mack - formerly of the Indianapolis Colts
After completely dominating the Texans with a 148-yard, one TD rushing performance in the 2018 Playoffs, Mack ran for over 1,000 yards in 2019 and was on his way to establishing himself as one of the best backs in the league. But, he was injured in week one of the 2020 season and before you could say "Jonathan Taylor is the man", Jonathan Taylor became THE MAN in Indy. That left Mack on the outside looking for an opportunity elsewhere. Hopefully, "elsewhere" is Houston and Mack can find his 2019 mojo for the 2022 season and beyond.
Dare Ogunbowale - formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguar
Dare was an undrafted free agent rookie for the Texans in 2017 and has stayed in the league going on six seasons in 2022. Over the past two seasons in Jacksonville, he started four games and ran for 272 yards and a touchdown in those seasons. His Football Life has come full circle as he signed a free agent deal with the Texans in 2022 this offseason.
Andy Janovich - formerly of the Cleveland Brown
The Texans didn't use a traditional fullback most of the 2021 season, making Paul Quessenberry active for just one game, which resulted in just one offensive snap. Janovich signed in Houston, though, after starting 25 games in his six year career in Denver and Cleveland. It could be deduced, given the Janovich signing and Quessenberry remaining a Texan, that the Texans plan on using a fullback more in the 2022 season. That said, we'll see how that transpires through training camp and preseason games.
2022 Rookie Addition
Dameon Pierce, Florida - 4th Round, #107 overall
Here's my Harris 100 Scouting Report on Pierce - final Harris 100 Ranking: 88
"(Bainbridge HS in Bainbridge, GA. From jump, I'll tell you that Pierce was not used properly at Florida, for whatever reason. Every time that I watched him, I came away thinking "Why did Pierce not get more carries?" He's a hammerhead with the rock in his hands and has insane contact balance. Without the ball in his hands, he might be even more valuable. As a pass protector, he and Kyren Williams (Notre Dame) stand at the top of the heap...and it's not even close. At the Senior Bowl, it seemed linebackers didn't want to trifle with him in the slightest by day three. He seems to have a great spirit about him as well. He showed up for the bench press on Friday at the Combine wearing Ugg slides...then threw up 21 reps of 225-lb. Compact and powerful, Pierce is automatically going to be a team's goal line/short yardage back. He has a knack of keeping his shoulder square to the line of scrimmage, especially so as he hunts defensive prey. Man, he's a load, but he has some excellent feet and a wicked jump cut for a 218-lb. back. The touchdown run that he had against USF was what NFL teams are going to love. A free runner into the box had a shot on Pierce - dead to rights. There was no way that Pierce should've got past the line of scrimmage as the defender knifed into his legs. The Gators star back put his off hand on the ground to maintain his balance and then lunged near the end zone. He then fought through a linebacker's tackle attempt to score the touchdown. I like his natural hands in the passing game. Now, he's not going to run away from defenders and doesn't possess tremendous long speed like some in this draft class, but I don't care. This guy is going to be the hammer that I want in the run game, pure and simple. He can stay on the field on third down because of his hands and desire to deliver pass protection messages."
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