Sharing the love has been the motto for the 2019 Houston Texans. For starters Will Fuller has more yards and touchdowns than Deandre Hopkins, albeit it’s not by much. Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee are heavily involved in games when healthy, and the tight end combination of Darren Fells and Jordan Akins has 5 touchdowns in just as many games. Spreading the ball around seems to be the game plan for Bill O’Brien this season and this couldn’t be truer for the running back tandem of Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson.
While many fantasy managers are clamoring for Johnson to take on the bell-cow role, it just isn’t likely. A colleague of mine posed a question that has been asked not only this year, but in seasons prior as well.
Why isn’t Duke Johnson more involved?
I mean he has more combined yards from scrimmage over each of the last two weeks in comparison to his counterpart. His 6.4 yards per rushing attempt leap off the page, yet he’s only amassed 32 carries through five weeks and never more than 10 total touches in a game since week 1. Defenses take note of when Duke is on the field. His pass catching prowess from the position is unrivaled on his team as he boasts 9.4 yards per reception and an average depth of target on par with backs like David Johnson and Zeke Elliott. The Texans offense is less predictable when Duke lines up in the backfield, unfortunately for him; the answer to his lack of involvement has forever been the presence Carlos Hyde.
It could be argued that Carlos “El Guapo” Hyde sets the tone with his hard, downhill running style, continually lowering his shoulder and finishing runs. Hyde’s 73 totes for 310 yards this season is nothing to write home about, but he is the goal line back with 2 touchdowns on the season and his punishing style of play appears to soften up defenses enough to allow Duke to be an efficient dual threat for the Texans.
In week 5 Hyde and Johnson combined for 111 of Houston’s 166 rushing yards against the Falcons, a team that averages 120 per contest. Hyde was on the field for 64% of the offensive snaps compared to Johnson’s 40%, a split no one would’ve guessed after week 1 where Duke handled 63% of the snaps compared to Hyde’s 37%. Johnson finished the game against the Falcons with 9 carries for 51 scoreless yards and an 8 yard reception. Hyde compiled 60 yards on 21 attempts and a touchdown, also losing 14 yards on a fumble that the Texans were lucky enough to recover, he was also targeted once.
As the pass catching back in this offense, Duke’s snaps increase when the game script calls for it. His snap percentages flip with Hyde’s in games that the Texans are trailing. That’s a likely scenario this upcoming week when the Texans travel to Arrowhead to face the high powered Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs have given up 37 (Ravens), 18 (Lions) and 21 (Colts) fantasy points to the running back position over the last 3 weeks and an average of 19.8 per contest. That includes averages of 25 attempts, 133 yards and 5.3 yards per carry. They also allow 5.2 receptions per game and 42.6 receiving yards to running backs. Outside of holding Leonard Fournette to 66 yards on 13 carries and 4 catches for an additional 28 yards the Chiefs have proven that defending the position has been difficult for them thus far. Take a look at a few split backfields Kansas City has faced:
Ingram: Rush – 16/103/3 Rec – 4/32
Edwards: Rush – 7/53/0 Rec – 2/15
Mack – Rush – 29/132/0 Rec – 3/16
Hines – Rush -0/0/0 Rec – 4/46
Wilkins – Rush – 7/28/0 Rec – 0/0
Kansas City ranks 24th vs running backs, but I wouldn’t get too excited about the match up. Watson has only connected with Johnson on 9 passes for 85 yards to this point and he hasn’t found the end zone on the ground or via the air yet. Now that Coutee is finally healthy, he will also soak up Duke’s potential targets near the line of scrimmage, especially on hot routes.
Despite how badly some of us want Duke to breakout, he is forever limited by the other play makers surrounding him in this offense, none more prominent than “El Guapo”.
Miles also hosts the Fantasy Football Flex On ‘Em Podcast. Follow Miles @FF_Peacock on twitter.