Texans fill running back hole with shocking trade of Hopkins
HOUSTON (AP) — The trade of DeAndre Hopkins leaves a huge hole in the Texans’ offense.
But Houston did address one glaring free agency need with the shocking trade of the star receiver to Arizona by getting running back David Johnson in the deal. The Texans had a need at the position with both Carlos Hyde and Lamar Miller becoming free agents this week.
Hyde led the Texans with a career-high 1,070 yards rushing last year in his first season with the team after coming to Houston in August. Hyde filled in nicely for Miller, who had been the team’s featured back for the previous three seasons before a knee injury ended his season last August. Miller made 41 starts and ran for 2,934 yards before his injury after signing a four-year, $26 million contract in 2016.
Johnson will take over as the starter in Houston after a tough 2019 campaign. The 28-year-old ran for just 345 yards last season in 13 games as he dealt with injuries and a reduced role after the acquisition of Kenyan Drake from the Dolphins in October.
Johnson spent his entire five-year NFL career in Arizona after being drafted in the third round in 2015. He had a solid season as a rookie when he ran for 581 yards and eight touchdowns and had 457 yards receiving with five more scores.
His best year came in 2016 when he had 1,239 yards rushing with 16 touchdowns — both career highs — and set a career best with 879 yards receiving to establish himself as one of the top pass-catching running backs in the league and earn All-Pro honors. That season, he led the NFL in all-purpose yards (2,118) and in touches (373). Johnson wasn’t able to build on that success in 2017 after sustaining a season-ending wrist injury in the season opener.
He bounced back in 2018 by running for 940 yards and seven touchdowns and adding 446 yards receiving with four TDs before last year’s disappointing season.
Despite Johnson’s reputation as a solid option out of the backfield, the loss of Hopkins leaves major questions about Houston’s passing game. Hopkins had been one of Houston’s most consistent players since he was drafted in the first round in 2013. He missed just two games in is seven-year career and kept the team’s offense afloat as it dealt with a revolving door at quarterback before Deshaun Watson was drafted in 2017.
The three-time All-Pro had more than 1,150 yards receiving in five of his seven seasons, led by a career-high 1,572 yards receiving in 2018. With the departure of Hopkins, the team added receiver Randall Cobb, who announced his signing on Twitter. Cobb has had a strong career, first with eight seasons in Green Bay before joining the Cowboys last season. But the 29-year-old isn’t the elite playmaker Hopkins is and has topped just 1,000 yards receiving just once – when he had a career-high 1,287 yards receiving in 2014.
Adding Cobb will help soften the blow of losing Hopkins, but the Texans will need other receivers on the roster to take a step forward this season if they hope to build on last year’s trip to the divisional round of the playoffs.
The player with the best chance to fill in for Hopkins is Will Fuller, a first-round draft pick in 2016. The speedy Fuller has shown flashes of brilliance in his career, highlighted by a 217-yard game last season. But the Texans have been unable to count on him consistently as he has missed 23 games in four seasons because of injuries.
The Texans also have Kenny Stills, who was acquired in a trade with Miami last year. Stills missed three games with injuries, but was a strong addition to the team and finished with 561 yards receiving and four touchdowns.