DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH?

Don't be surprised when this talented rookie back makes an impact for the Texans

In 2009, the Houston Texans signed Arian Foster as an undrafted free agent from the University of Tennessee. After he appeared in six games as a rookie, Foster went on to become a four-time Pro-Bowler and a three-time member of the NFL All-Pro team. By the end of his seven-year tenure in Houston, he held the franchise record as the all-time leader in yards (6,472) and rushing touchdowns (54) — which still stands today.

As one of the greatest players in team history, the Texans found a hidden gem in Foster as he became one of the most dynamic running backs of the 2010s. Eleven years later, Houston has another opportunity to strike gold once again with the signing of undrafted free agent, Scottie Phillips.

Unlike most players in his situation, Phillips has a realistic opportunity to not only make the Texans' 54-man roster but also earn playing time due to the uncertainties surrounding Houston's backfield.

David Johnson and Duke Johnson will undoubtedly split the majority number of touches in 2020, but neither of the two are dependable to fill the void as the Texans' every-down back. Throughout their careers, Duke has continuously flourished as a team's dual-threat second option, while David has yet to prove he can return to his 2016 All-Pro form.

Any one of the "Johnson Brothers" have the morale to take the helms as Houston's primary running back, but if one falls short of expectations, it will enable an opportunity for Phillips to showcase his merit as a professional halfback in the NFL.

Placed in the 21st percentile of best running back coming into the 2020 NFL Draft, Maurice Jones-Drew of NFL.com stated, "Phillips was inconsistent at Ole Miss, but showed a lot of promise when he was on. When he flashed, the 5-8, 209-pounder showed great burst, was explosive, and was a sure-fire threat out of the backfield."

The reality that the Texans were able to sign Phillips following the draft was a steal within itself. Several mock drafts had the 5-foot-8 running back from Ole Miss projected as an early-sixth to late-seven round draftee. He currently possesses all the elements of a future franchise halfback, given his ability to breakdown defenders when looking for open gaps in an attempt to make a play downfield. If presented with the chance to capitalize on his skill set, Phillips has the opportunity to become the Texans' primary backup for 2020 — as well as the team's No. 1 option in the near future.

In the video clip above, Phillips' 26-yard rushing touchdown is a prime example of what the Texans can expect from the Mississippi native.

On second-and-2, Phillips was able to maneuver through the smallest gap and instantly switched into second gear to record what could have been a 20-yard gain. However, once warped by a pair of defensive backs, Phillips' strength to power through contact added six more yards to the play — which resulted in a touchdown for the Rebels. His ability to record extra yardage after contact is Phillips' best aspect as a running back.

Based on his stature, Phillips is not the ideal back to insert as a receiver, but he can provide another dependable target for Deshaun Watson coming out of the backfield.

In the video clip above, Phillips' best "sure hands" impression gave way to a 21-yard touchdown reception from quarterback John Plumlee on a third-and-13 down. It was his lone receiving touchdown of the season after recording 77 reception yards on eight catches in 2019.

If not for sharing snaps with a five-star recruit (Jerrion Ealy) amid his senior season, Phillips' stock would have been much higher entering the draft.

Fast. Short. And stocky. The best current player to compare Phillips to is Baltimore Ravens star, Mark Ingram. Despite being slightly below the average height for an NFL running back (5'11), Ingram (5'9) has put together a substantial nine-year career as a three-time Pro-Bowler with 7,025 rushing yards.

In two seasons with the Rebels, Phillips recorded a combined 1,470 rushing yards on 5.2 yards per attempt and 17 touchdowns in 20 games played. Ironically, the best game of his collegiate career took place at NRG Stadium, where he exploded for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries — during Ole Miss' 47-27 victory over Texas Tech in 2018. During his two year stint at Jones County Junior College, Phillips became a top JUCO running back recording 2,282 rushing yards with 27 trips to the end zone.

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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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