Just a month ago when the Texans traded for Duke Johnson to back up leading rusher Lamar Miller everything looked great in Houston. Miller would be the bell cow, Johnson would take on third-down duties behind Miller (mostly as a pass-catcher), and the rest of the hideous running backs on the roster wouldn’t need to be heavily used. Fast forward to the end of August to see a completely different landscape. Lamar Miller suffered a season-ending injury and all of a sudden Duke Johnson became the No. 1 RB in Houston.
Those were good news for the ex-Brown and its fantasy owners. After three consecutive seasons falling short of 85 rushing attempts and two with more passing targets than runs attempted, the path was cleared for Johnson to become a do-it-all RB. The Texans were bare-bones at the position outside of him, so they had to bring in some veteran help. In a funny plot twist, Carlos Hyde (Johnson’s teammate in Cleveland last year for six games) was the chosen one. It still looks like the RB1 role is Johnson’s to lose, but you should keep an eye on how the usage patterns develop during the season.
Fantasy Impact: This week matchup can’t be worse for Houston’s running backs. New Orleans deployed the best defense against the position last year being the only team to allow fewer than 1,000 yards rushing (980), and only eight touchdowns. The only encouraging point in this week’s game for Johnson would be that he is more of a pass-catcher than a pure rusher, and the Saints weren’t as good preventing receiving yardage from RB. In his lone game against New Orleans last year Johnson logged 10 yards from scrimmage on five touches, and he was still Cleveland’s no. 1 option at the position over Nick Chubb. Don’t bet on Johnson improving his performance. Definitely not this week.