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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Yuli Gurriel had a monster night at the plate Friday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Although they lost the series 2-1, the Astros ended their road trip with a nice win over the Yankees to head home on a positive note. On Friday, they welcomed in the Toronto Blue Jays and former teammate George Springer, currently on the IL, to start a three-game series and long homestand. They had an excellent night at the plate, along with a strong start from Jose Urquidy, cruising past the Blue Jays to take the opener.

Final Score: Astros 10, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 17-15, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (3-2)

Losing Pitcher: Ross Stripling (0-2)

Jays strike first, then Houston responds and never looks back

It first appeared that Urquidy may be in for a long night, giving up two solo home runs early in Friday's game, one to Bo Bichette in the top of the first with one out to put Toronto up 1-0, then another to Danny Jansen in the top of the third. However, Urquidy would lock-in, and his offense would back him up strongly.

Houston ended up sending nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the second, getting two runs on a homer by Carlos Correa, then later loading the bases to set up an RBI walk by Alex Bregman. In the bottom of the fifth, with a one-run lead at 3-2, Yuli Gurriel expanded the lead to three runs on a two-run shot.

Gurriel went on to have a fantastic night, going 4-for-4 at the plate with 4 RBI. His third of those came in the bottom of the seventh, extending the lead again with an RBI single to make it 6-2. Kyle Tucker made it a five-run game that same inning with an RBI double, then more insurance came in the bottom of the eighth. They reached double-digits that inning, with Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Yuli Gurriel, his fourth of the night, all getting an RBI to make it 10-2.

Urquidy finishes seven, then Emanuel finishes it off

Those gave Urquidy plenty of support, though he would bounce back after the two early homers and have a nice night on the mound. He allowed just two other hits, working around both, en route to a seven-inning two-run performance to earn him the win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 84 P.

He likely could have gone longer, but Dusty Baker turned the ball over to Kent Emanuel to wrap things up with the significant lead. He did so, despite allowing a two-run home run to former-Astro Teoscor Hernandez in the top of the ninth to make the score 10-4. The win kept the Astros above .500 and two games back of the A's, who sit atop the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be a 6:10 PM start Saturday night. The pitching matchup will be Steven Matz (4-2, 4.78 ERA) for Toronto and the electric Cristian Javier (3-0, 1.75 ERA) for Houston.

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