Bill O’Brien will give David Johnson the opportunity to become an elite running back again, even if he’s the only coach willing to take that chance. O’Brien acquired Johnson from the Arizona Cardinals in the DeAndre Hopkins trade, taking on a running back whose best years appear to be behind him.
The Houston Texans coach doesn’t see it that way.
“David Johnson is a three-down back who has had some very productive years,” O’Brien said in a conference call with reporters, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “The type of guy he is, I’m so excited about having him, Randall Cobb, Brandin Cooks in our locker room.”
The Texans also signed Cobb and traded for Cooks in their efforts to retool their offense, but acquiring Johnson was the biggest head-scratcher. Not only did the Texans trade one of the best receivers in football (Hopkins), but O’Brien also decided to take on the remaining two years and $20,156,250 on his contract. Johnson has struggled to find his footing over the past few seasons, rushing for just 1,308 yards and averaging 3.6 yards per carry from 2017 to 2019 — after finishing with 1,239 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in 2016.
Johnson led the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2,118) and touchdowns (20) in 2016, but has just 2,191 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns since. At just 28 years old, Johnson’s prime years could be behind him — and the Texans took a chance on him to be their No. 1 running back over Duke Johnson.
O’Brien has taken a lot of flak over the deal. He’s also well aware of the criticism that comes his way.
“We feel really good about, when we look at the analytics of it, based on the production that was leaving our team and the production that we were bringing in, and what we were able to do,” O’Brien said, via SportsRadio 610 Houston. “Again it is very incomplete and we have several roster moves to go, including the draft.
“The best thing I can tell the fans is to please — I know the media’s job is to evaluate right away and I get that — but I think we have to let it all play out. Let it play out. Let the whole thing play out, whether it’s that trade or anything else we’ve done. I would say let’s review a year from now, two years from now, three years from now. Let it all play out.”
Johnson’s second chance with the Texans will determine his trade. The former All-Pro clearly has to be better than he was the past three years with Arizona, which is a low barometer to start.