Camp Countdown

Texans training camp preview: Running backs

The Texans need more from Lamar Miller. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As the Texans gear up for training camp there are still concerns about the group of running backs they have assembled. The group is mostly the same; led by Lamar Miller with back-ups Alfred Blue who was re-signed in the offseason and D’onta Foreman who will probably be on the Physically Unable to Perform List to begin the season. That leaves room for holdovers Tyler Ervin and Troymaine Pope as well as rookies Lavon Coleman or Terry Swanson to step up and earn some snaps. Competition will be fierce and there should be plenty to go around.

As a team the Texans finished the season just inside the top half of the league in rushing yards and just outside the top ten in attempts. But they were firmly near the bottom of the league with only eight rushing touchdowns for the season. An improved interior offensive line and a healthy Deshaun Watson will contribute to an improved running game but it might not be enough to make the run game a scary aspect of the offense.

Lamar Miller will still be the starter but a disappointing 888 yards with a 3.7 yards per carry average demonstrated a real need for improvement. That’s why D’Onta Foreman was a third-round draft choice last year and by Week 11 was ready to break out. His season ended that same week and it was up to Miller and Blue to finish it out.

Speaking of Blue, it was a little bit of a head scratcher when he was re-signed this offseason. In his four seasons he has demonstrated that he can be nothing more than a third or fourth option in the backfield. Maybe it was the injury to Foreman that caused the Texans to sign a familiar face but his one-year contract is cheap to get out of if he doesn’t out-perform those behind him on the depth chart.

Tyler Ervin played in only four games last year, almost exclusively on special teams before a torn patellar tendon ended his season. At the time he was averaging 18.6 yards per kick return and 7.5 yards per punt return. He will have a tough road ahead but he should be ready for the start of camp. If he can show the injury hasn’t slowed him down he might still make the roster as a kick returner, leaving the door open for one of the two rookies to fight for playing time.

Houston brought in undrafted free agents Lavon Coleman and Terry Swanson to round out the group this offseason. These might both be long shot guys when it comes to offensive carries, but special teams can always use players with their size and speed.

Coleman is a big guy with some ability to get outside and enough elusiveness to make a move. He will need to adjust to the size and power of NFL defenses but a good camp could get him in the role that Foreman was meant to play behind Miller.

Swanson is more a match for what Miller brings. He is a speedy guy with great vision who was a priority signing for Houston as soon as the draft ended. He shared his college backfield with last year’s breakout rookie Kareem Hunt and the Texans hope they can get something similar. It’s not out of the question for a good camp to jump him ahead of a player like Alfred Blue or Tyler Ervin.

What we know so far is that there is at least one more year of Lamar Miller leading this group. He is still in position to get a lion’s share of the work because the depth behind him is either unable or unknown. That’s not a good position to be in if you’re the Texans. There are still a few free agents who can help available to sign, the most notable being Adrian Peterson. I’m not sure I can even posture a guess at what they might do. There’s upside with the two rookies and a sense of patience with the recovery of D’Onta Foreman so all they need is to stay near the middle of the league and hope that the improved offensive line and return of Deshaun Watson make up the difference.

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome