Lamar Miller tore his ACL Saturday night in a devastating injury for the Houston Texans. The Texans have eyes on a Super Bowl run this year and Miller was set to be a big part of the offense’s identity. That’s obviously out the window now. What follows are five options Houston could explore with their veteran running back done for the year.
Lean on Duke Johnson
The Texans landed Duke Johnson in a trade with the Cleveland Browns on August 8, and he’ll likely become the immediate starter for Houston. While he hasn’t ever been a full-time starter during his four NFL seasons, Johnson has never missed a game. He’s never been given the chance to get regular carries.
In four years with the Browns, Johnson rushed for 1,286 yards and five touchdowns on 299 carries (4.3 yards per carry). He’s also added 2,170 yards and eight touchdowns on 235 receptions. He’s been more of a receiving threat than a runner during his career so far.
At 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds, Johnson has the build to be a starting back and the trade to acquire him could be a massive coup for the Texans. That said, Houston will need to add another back to help him carry the load.
Trade for Melvin Gordon
Melvin Gordon is currently holding out and it doesn’t look like he’s close to working out a deal with the Los Angeles Chargers. A two-time Pro Bowler who averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2018, Gordon can be a home run-hitter in the running game, as well as a threat to catch passes out of the backfield.
A trade for Gordon won’t come cheap and the Texans would then have to give him a long-term contract. That said, he’s proven himself to be one of the NFL’s most dangerous backs. He’s the exact kind of guy who could take pressure off Deshaun Watson and help Houston’s offense get to the next level.
Sign Jay Ajayi
Jay Ajayi is still a free agent after suffering a torn ACL in October of last season. A former Pro Bowler, Ajayi has to prove he’s healthy and can stay healthy. In 2016, he played 15 games and rushed for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns on 261 carries. That was an average of 4.9 yards per attempt. For his career, Ajayi has averaged 4.5 yards per carry.
Ajayi is still just 26 and his knee has been medically cleared for a month. He was waiting for an opportunity like this. He could be a great addition to Houston’s running back stable and could pair well with Duke Johnson.
Trade for LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy could be on his way out of Buffalo. The Bills signed Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon this offseason and drafted Devin Singletary in April. Given McCoy’s $9.05 million cap hit, the Bills could be looking to move him before the 2019 season kicks off.
The Texans could make an offer and see if Buffalo is willing to part with him. McCoy had a rough season in 2018, he ran for just 514 yards and three touchdowns on just 161 carries (3.2 yards per carry). But in 2016 he rushed for 1,267 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. In 2017, he racked up 1,138 yards and six touchdowns.
McCoy is still a weapon out of the backfield in the passing game, is a six-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-team All-Pro. Another benefit to landing McCoy is his contract status. If he’s terrible in 2019, he’ll be a free agent after the season, so the Texans won’t be stuck with him.
Look at second-tier options
A number of running backs could shake free in the next week or so as the preseason wraps up. Guys like Carlos Hyde, T.J. Yeldon, Elijah McGuire and Jeremy Hill could all be available. Meanwhile, Corey Clement could likely be had via trade, and Kenneth Dixon may not make the Ravens roster. And, if Houston really wanted him, Washington might be open to moving Adrian Peterson.
There are going to be talented guys out there via a cheap trade or free agency. They might not be top-level, game-changing players, but they could certainly help a depleted depth chart.