ARLINGTON – Significant investments in the running game are not producing the results the Houston Texans hoped given the presence of three former Pro Bowl running backs.
Although Mark Ingram was pushing his way back to the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown run when he got a team high during a 20:14 win over the Dallas Cowboys at the AT&T Stadium, the game in progress, on Saturday night from 24 yards to seven carries won mostly sputtered in the second preseason game.
Third string quarterback Jeff Driskel was the runner-up rusher behind Ingram with five runs for 23 yards.
Between Ingram, Phillip Lindsay and Rex Burkhead, they combined only 12 runs for 30 yards for an average of 2.5 per carry. Lindsay was limited to two yards on four carries and Burkhead gained four yards on his only run.
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Meanwhile, former Pro Bowl running back David Johnson, who was acquired in the controversial DeAndre Hopkins deal last year and taken over this off-season by new general manager Nick Caserio under a restructured contract, has a run this preseason. He was once targeted for an incomplete passport against the cowboys. He lost a yard in his one run against the Green Bay Packers on 3rd and 1st when the Texans settled for a field goal.
Even when the Texans used Paul Quessenberry as a full-back in an I-formation, the Texans didn’t lead football with much effectiveness. The Cowboys restricted the Texans to 89 yards on 23 carries, an average of 3.2 per run.
“It was good to see they all got some reps,” said Texas coach David Culley. “We have another preseason game next week (against reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and we’re going to get more reps out of them. But I was happy with what we got out of them.
“You saw Mark have a couple of carries, and I spent time with Mark in another location (Baltimore Ravens) for some time. The thing about Mark is, when the ball is in Mark’s hands it will usually be positive yards and he did that for us. “
Scottie Phillips stormed for 16 yards on four carries after leading the Texans against the Packers in rushing yards.
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The Texans used Ingram in short yards as he won two yards with a 4th-and-1 to prepare his touchdown run for an early lead. The Texans didn’t convert their other fourth try when Lindsay lost a yard on the 4th and 1st. However, Culley displayed a more aggressive style.
“I love the aggressive mentality,” said Ingram. “I love the identity. We have a physical identity. An identity that we believe in. We believe in each other that we will get a farm. When the coach makes the call, we as players need to be able to carry it out and make sure we don’t let him down.
“That we rebuild the 4th-and-1 and maintain the drive. I love the aggressiveness. I love the mentality. I think everyone on the offensive loves the challenge too. We have to keep improving and getting better. “
There wasn’t a lot of pressure in the running game or big holes to run through, although many multiple tight ends were used as blockers.
“Well, I think that had a lot to do with having all of our tight ends available for the game,” said Culley. “We wanted to play all of these guys. We wanted to make sure everyone who was available was playing. They are a big part of what we do in the running game and the passing game. There are times when these guys are like offensive linemen in the game. If we play two tight-end sets, we can play the ball no matter what they do in front and throw the ball. “
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The highlight for a largely ineffective offensive: Ingram transforms a sudden change situation after the sack from Jacob Martin and forced fumble from defensive end Charles Omenihu.
“That’s huge,” said Ingram. “You start the game on the defensive so that they generate revenue and give us a short field. For us, being able to capitalize and get a touchdown, that is execution. That’s something you want to do.
“We are happy with how the game started. As the game progresses, we need better execution to maintain drives and limit big games. Although we won, this bond has a lot of good things, there is also a lot to grow. “
With short distances, willpower is just as important as skill and strength.
“You need to be able to win the line of scrimmage and have the mentality that you won’t be denied court,” Ingram said. “The will to break a tackle and get a few meters is great. There’s a lot of will for the line to hit the D-line off the ball. Everyone has to be able to perform, and everyone has to have the mentality of being physical and not being denied a meter so that one can continue the journey. “
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Between Ingram, Johnson and Lindsay, the Texans have three former 1,000-yard rushers, all of whom have been called up to the Pro Bowl. The Texans need it to do this at the start of the season.
“We just want to be a physical group, a group that performs,” Ingram said. “Run the ball in, run the ball out, come out of the backcourt, catch a pass, pick up pass protection, just be the complete package. Be a position that is beneficial to this team.
“Be a position that plays for this team. Be a position that can add momentum and energy to this team. As a running back you are proud of that. We just want to be a group that plays and is an asset to the team. “
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