Houston Texans' running game could be major storyline during training camp

Mark Lane
Texans Wire

The Houston Texans kick off training camp July 29 at Houston Methodist Training Center. The AFC South club will lay the foundation for hopeful success in the first season under coach Lovie Smith.

While the performance of second-year quarterback Davis Mills and the evolution of Smith’s patented Tampa 2 defense will be storylines fans will be following throughout camp, there is another thread to follow that is also integral to the Texans’ success in 2022.

According to Eric Edholm from NFL.com, one of the storylines worth watching in Texans training camp is the progression of the team’s rushing attack.

"The Texans’ ground game was a disaster last season, ranking dead last in rushing yards, yards per carry and rushing scores," Edholm wrote. "Rex Burkhead is back after leading a late-season upset over the Los Angeles Chargers, but he’ll be pushed for the starting role by injury-prone ex-Colt Marlon Mack and fourth-rounder Dameon Pierce.

"Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has said he wants balance on offense to help Mills and Co., but we likely must wait for camp and the preseason to figure out who will emerge in the backfield."

Houston Texans running back Rex Burkhead (28) celebrates after rushing for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Burkhead had the only 100-yard rushing performance for the Texans last year in Houston’s 41-29 win over the Chargers at NRG Stadium in Week 16. Yet it wasn’t enough for the Texans to be satisfied with the state of the run game, which necessitated the drafting of Pierce.

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Pierce, who scored nine rushing touchdowns and generated 5.7 yards per carry last season, figures to take over as the feature back in Houston’s running back stable. The question comes down to when Pierce will supplant Burkhead and Mack. Will the rookie have a convincing enough camp to take over by September? Will it take the slough of the regular season for offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton to load up the former Florida product?

If the Texans are able to emerge from camp with a more effective run game, it will make Mills’ job easier as he grasps the reins of the offense.