Houston Texans: Carlos Hyde has been unsung hero for offense

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

Once again, the Houston Texans have one of the NFL’s best running games. And now it’s keyed by one of the physical players at his position in the league.

A year ago at this time, the Houston Texans owned a 10-4 record and were on the way to an AFC South title. Bill O’Brien’s team became the sixth example in NFL history of a club overcoming and 0-3 start to reach the playoffs.

This season, the Texans are 9-5 after 14 games and, on Saturday, can clinch another division title with a victory over the rejuvenated Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But this team has a little bit of a different feel to it.

Back in August, Houston made some changes to its backfield — one due to opportunity and another likely out of necessity. The club made a deal to acquire running back Duke Johnson from the Cleveland Browns. A few weeks later, Houston turned to Kansas City and traded for running back Carlos Hyde, who never suited up for the Chiefs and had spent 2018 with the Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars.

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The latter happened after the club lost running back Lamar Miller to a knee injury in the preseason. And the 2014 second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers has responded with a career year.

Last season, the Texans ranked eighth in the league in rushing, averaging 126.3 yards per outing. Miller led the way with 973 yards on 210 carries, followed by quarterback Deshaun Watson (551 on 99 attempts). This season, Houston is seventh in the NFL when it comes to running the football (130.9 yards per game).

Hyde ranks 10th in the league with 1,030 yards on 224 attempts. Johnson is second with 394 yards on 77 carries and Watson has run for 376 yards (75 attempts) but does lead the team with seven touchdowns on the ground. There’s a difference of just over four yards per game.

The physical play of Hyde has enabled Watson to take a little less punishment. The veteran running back comes into Week 16 off of 104 yards rushing and a one-touchdown performance (on 26 carries) in the 24-21 victory at Tennessee last Sunday. Along with improved offensive line play, Watson has been sacked just 39 times in 14 outings this season compared to an NFL-worst 62 quarterback traps a year ago.

Although the difference in numbers is not startling, the Houston Texans actually feature a much-improved ground attack because it is spearheaded by its running backs. And it is now led by the former Ohio State Buckeyes’ standout.

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Hyde has certainly run over his slew of opposing defenses in 2019. And for what it’s worth, the Buccaneers have allowed the fewest rushing yards in the league this season.