Redemption Tour continues: David Johnson will be tested against the Ravens

Photo via: The Houston Texans.

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans stood on the 19-yard line on 2nd-and-1 when Deshaun Watson completed an inside handoff to running back David Johnson. Offensive tackles Zach Fulton and Tytus Howard opened a right-side gap that led to a 19-yard touchdown run for the one-time pro-bowler (2016).

An energetic Johnson celebrated with Kenny Stills and the rest of his new teammates. His first touchdown of the season put the Texans ahead 7-0 over the Kansas City Chiefs late in the first quarter.

The first stop on the Johnson Redemption Tour ended with a total of 109 yards — 77 yards coming on the ground for 11 carries in his Texans debut — but it wasn't enough. Houston would find themselves on the wrong side of a scoreboard that read 34-20 inside Arrowhead Stadium late Thursday night.

Johnson's first game was not perfect nor an unforgettable performance. But it severed as a building block in a game that featured Houston's ineptitude to stop Chiefs' rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the lack of production coming from their receiving corps. It's the foundation of what will be an integral part of the Texans' offensive schemes this season.

"I felt great being out there, and our line did a great job blocking for me," Johnson said in a post-practice interview via Zoom on Monday. "I think to myself I still had a couple more yards I left on the field and I've just got to improve on that aspect. And then just in the passing game, a couple routes I wish I could've got back where Deshaun [Watson] was looking for me and I just ran the wrong route. So, continue to correct those mistakes and building from that."

It is no secret that the Texans will rely heavily upon their running game in 2020. Houston ran the ball 22 times against the Chiefs, in comparison to the 20 passing plays called. The former Arizona Cardinal contributed for 50 percent of the Texans running plays, with Watson (27 yards on six carries) and Duke Johnson (14 yards on five carries) splitting the latter.

This trio of runners will usually lead the Texans in rushing yards over the next 15 weeks, with The Johnson Brothers leading the way. However, what's supposed to be a two-man tandem may end up featuring David as a solo act coming out of the backfield this Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

In hindsight, it may seem like the Texans will struggle to run the ball against Baltimore. In 2019, the Ravens only gave up a total of 1,494 rushing yards (93.4 YDS) — finishing the year with the fifth-best defense at stopping the run. But their defensive performance could be misleading when breaking down their opponents from the previous season.

Out of the 18 games — including the playoffs — the Ravens only played against two premiere running backs and came up short in each contest.

Nick Chubb recorded 165 yards and three touchdowns, as the Browns handed Baltimore their worst defeat of the regular season in a 40-25 loss on their home field. Despite being favorites to represent the AFC in Miami this past February, the Ravens' postseason run ended earlier than expected in a loss to the Tennessee Titans. Derrick Henry's stat line in the AFC Division Round victory: 195 yards (6.5 AVG) on just 30 carries.

Albeit they came out on the winning side this time around, the Ravens gave up 138 yards on the ground in their Week 1 victory over Cleveland on Sunday. Chubb and his new backfield mate Kareem Hunt registered a combined 111 rushing yards on eight carries.

"I think the league definitely front-loaded the schedules and we have a pretty tough schedule," Johnson said. "Going against the defending champions and then against the Ravens whose always been up there with Lamar (Jackson) in the playoffs and stuff. I think it's going to be a good measurement for our team. "The last game was my first real game, no preseason, so I still have a lot to improve on."

Houston only experienced a small dose of what a rejuvenated Johnson can bring to the gridiron. According to Johnson himself, there is a lot he can build on heading into his second game with the Texans with more responsibility than in his debut.

Duke sustained an ankle sprain during the second half of Houston's season opener and is considered day-to-day, according to head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien on Monday. After sitting out of practice, Duke is unlikely to play Sunday in their home opener against the Ravens.

O'Brien says he "feels good about their depth" in an event Duke is not available. Although true with the talents of Buddy Howell and Scottie Phillips, Duke's potential absence will open the door for David to receive more touches heading into Week 2 — as the Johnson Redemption Tour makes its next stop inside NRG Stadium in Houston.

Coty M. Davis is a reporter for ESPN 97.5 Houston/SportsMap covering the Houston Texans. He is also the co-host of Locked On Texans, apart of the Locked On Podcast Network. Follow Coty on Twitter @CotyDavis_24.

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The Texans can address receiver in the NFL Draft. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Texans traded away Brandin Cooks to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday for a 2023 fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick in 2024.

Cooks’ move, while not eye-popping from a draft capital standpoint, opens the door for the Texans to pursue a receiver with one of the draft picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Houston has been known for having a top receiver for most of the franchise’s history. First with Andre Johnson and then with DeAndre Hopkins.

Now with the top spot up for grabs, here are some prospects at receiver the Texans could pursue with either the 12th overall pick or even into the second and third round of this year’s draft.

Quentin Johnston — TCU

Johnston has all the characteristics of a star receiver. He is 6 feet, 3 inches and weighed 208 pounds at the NFL Combine. The Temple native recorded a 40.5-inch vertical jump and 11-foot, 2-inch broad jump at the combine as well.

He hauled in 60 receptions for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns for the Horned Frogs in 2022 in a year that culminated in the College Football Playoff championship game. Johnston caught four passes for 139 yards in the Big 12 Championship Game, and he also caught six passes for 163 yards against Michigan in the College Football Semifinal.

Johnston’s biggest concern heading to the next level is his ability to make catches in traffic. In TCU’s College Football Championship Game against Georgia, he was held to just one catch for three yards. In order to reach his potential, Johnston will need a lot of development that will fall on the shoulders of Ben McDaniels and Bobby Slowik if taken by Houston.

Jordan Addison — USC

The former Trojan and Pittsburgh Panther caught at least 59 passes in every season of his collegiate career.

His best year came as a sophomore when he caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2021. Addison had 875 receiving yards and eight touchdowns with Caleb Williams under center in 2022 for USC.

Addison, who stands at 5 feet, 11 inches, ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, had a 34-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot, 2-inch broad jump at the combine. The Frederick, Maryland native’s consistency in college makes him an attractive pick for Houston that is going to be looking for versatile players at the receiver spot for the next signal caller under center.

Some of Addison’s drawbacks include his ability to win battles off the line of scrimmage when facing against physical corners. Similar to Johnston, he likely will not be there in the second round when the Texans pick, so if Houston really likes him, it might take the 12th pick.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba — Ohio State

Smith-Njigba could be the biggest question mark of the draft at the receiver position. After having a productive 2021 season for the Buckeyes, in which he caught 95 passes for an eye-popping 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns, he missed most of 2022 with a hamstring injury that limited him to just three games.

He stands at 6-foot-1-inch and 196 pounds, and he had a 35-inch vertical and 10-foot-5-inch broad jump at the NFL Combine. While excelling at the slot receiver position in 2021, having only one strong season is a big cause for concern.

If he is available after the first round, the Texans should consider taking a chance on him. If he is not, he might be too much of a question mark to take in round one.

Tank Dell — Houston

In a season that was defined by a lot of inconsistency from the Houston Cougars, the one constant was Dell at the receiver spot. Tank Dell, who’s real first name is Nathaniel but don’t call him that, caught at least five passes in every game for UH in 2022.

Despite being the No. 1 option, and in some weeks, the only reliable option at receiver for Houston due to injuries, Dell consistently produced, which is a trait every team in the NFL should love.

Dell finished the 2022 season with 109 catches for 1,398 yards and brought in 17 touchdown receptions for the Cougars. Tank officially measured in at 5 feet, 8 inches at the NFL combine. He ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, a 1.49-second 10-yard split and a 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump.

Dell’s biggest cause for concern is his size. If he is still available when the Texans are on the clock at 65, he could be the steal of the draft.

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