Texans' running game approach: 'Who's got the hot hand'

When Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly is building his game plans in tandem with the coaching staff, his strategy accounts for tendencies, personnel strengths and weaknesses and, ultimately, his instincts stemming from what he's seeing on the field.

When it comes to overseeing a revamped running game that includes three former Pro Bowl selections in Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson and reserves Rex Burkhead and Phillip Lindsay, Kelly will emphasize his feel for whose performance warrants extra carries on any given Sunday. Dividing the workload and keeping everyone fresh is a priority, but not at the cost of squandering an opportunity when a back is at his best.

“I think that obviously has a lot to do with it," Kelly said. "Who’s got the hot hand, matchup-wise, protection-wise, who do we feel is going to be able to exploit different matchups on the perimeter, whatever it may be. I think there’s a lot that goes into the game planning portion of it. Once we get into the game on Sunday, whoever’s rolling is rolling, and let’s go. 

"Obviously, we’re going to have a plan for how we want to use those guys, but you and I both know that as soon as you get into the game, a lot of that can change based upon what’s happening and how they’re feeling and how they’re running. But luckily for us, we’ve got a variety of guys with different skillsets that have proven it at this level that they can go out there and be productive. Looking forward to working through that on Sunday.”

Signed to a one-year contract with a maximum value of $3.75 million, with a base value $3.25 million, Lindsay is a former Denver Broncos standout whose deal includes a $500,000 signing bonus, a $2.25 million base salary with $500,000 of it guaranteed. The deal includes a $250,000 incentive clause for 750 yards rushing-receiving and $250,000 more for 1,000 yards combined rushing-receiving.

The Broncos rescinded Lindsay's original round tender after they signed former Minnesota Vikings running back Mike Boone after having conversations with his representatives and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.

Houston Texans v Green Bay Packers

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Lindsay is determined to prove the Broncos made a mistake. And he's primed to capitalize on his opportunities with the Texans.

“You’ve got to take advantage of the other reps that are given to you at the time," Lindsay said. "When you get hot, you want to make sure that person’s in so that they can continue to get hot until they kind of get cool a little bit, then you hope for the next one, too. That’s anywhere you go. When somebody is hot, you want to keep them going. That’s definitely what you want to do.”

The Texans struggled to run the football last season and basically abandoned the run as Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson led the NFL in passing yards for a 4-12 team.

With Tyrod Taylor now the QB1 with Watson having requested a trade and facing legal issues, the Texans do plan to emphasize the run starting Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium.

“Yeah, any team that can establish the run early, often, usually is going to have a good game throughout the whole entire game, because it sets the tone, you can control the clock and you pretty much can do what you want to do when you can run the ball," Lindsay said. "That’s the toughest thing, though, is establishing the run every play you can get, every chance you get. The goal is to go out there and establish it with a mindset of physicality. You can do that non-stop, after a while you’ll get some big ones.”

A former Pro Bowl selection who went undrafted out of Colorado, Lindsay rushed for 502 yards and one touchdown last season, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Lindsay rushed for 1,037 yards as a rookie and 1,011 yards in 2019.Lindsay has rushed for 2,550 career yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

The former undrafted rookie from Colorado doesn't lack for motivational fuel.

"I will always have that chip on my shoulder because that’s the type of person I am," Lindsay said. "That being said, some people are always going to say something just because you were undrafted. For me, that’s what drives me every day, is knowing that I had to come from the mud, pretty much, to be able to have the success that I did and to want to continue the success that I’ve had. For me, it’s just about playing my game, and I know for me it’s about making plays, being explosive. So that’s what, going out there, my mindset is: being explosive.”

And that goes for how Lindsay feels about his new teammates. There are plenty of gloomy predictions calling the Texans the worst team in the NFL. Lindsay isn't focused on the naysayers. He's focused on what actually happens on the football field. Actions, not words.

“I mean, we want to go out there and we want to win," Lindsay said. "We want to go 1-0, and that’s all that matters. Everybody has done their talking, their predictions, which is all cute and all and I guess that keeps everybody going for the offseason. But the good thing about football and this sport is you’ve got to go out there and showcase it. The fact is why do we play the game if we’re going to listen to what people say? You play the game to win, you play the game because you don’t know the outcome. 

"You write your story, and that’s what we have to do. We have a lot of veterans, a lot of players that played a lot of football, and I think that we’ve done our job. Now it’s time for the coaching staff to do their job throughout this week and get us in the right situations, and we need to do our job for them and we need to execute those situations. That’s how it goes, it’s a two-way street.”

Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.

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