After trading for running back David Johnson, the Houston Texans‘ running back corp seems secured. The aforementioned of Johnson, Duke Johnson and Buddy Howell will most likely comprise the corp come Sept. 10 when the Texans travel to Kansas City to kick off their season.
Currently, two other names fill the running back depth chart, Karan Higdon and Scottie Phillips. Higdon signed with the Texans last offseason as an undrafted free agent, ultimately making his way to the practice squad. Houston retained him via a reserve/future contract following the conclusion of this past season.
Higdon provides the Texans with stability at the running back position, but fans should keep an eye out for Phillips, the UDFA out of Ole Miss. The rookie enters the building with a lot of question marks, but his upside is tremendous.
In two seasons at Ole Miss, Phillips rushed for 1,470 on 278 attempts — an average of 5.3 yards per carry. The bulk of these yards came in his first season with Ole Miss, as he rushed for 928 yards on 153 attempts and found the endzone 12 times. Compared to his freshman season, Phillips did dip, accumulating 542 yards on 125 attempts and five touchdowns.
It should be noted that Phillips had to compete in a deep backfield, splitting time with other running backs Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner. In Phillips’ junior year, he was given the start 10 times, but come his senior year, this number was reduced to eight. This drop in production can partially be attributed to splitting the duties among his teammates. However, it’s not the only reason.
Against Auburn on Nov. 2, Phillips suffered an ankle injury that kept him out for multiple games. In the game against Auburn, Phillips only rushed once for four yards before exiting the game due to injury.
At 5-foot-8, 209 pounds, Phillips does come in on the smaller end of the NFL spectrum. At running back, this should not be seen as a negative. Running back is not typically a position that covets size like linemen or quarterbacks.
Phillips brings with him a mixture of speed and brute force. He clocked in a 4.56 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine and 29 reps on the bench press. Using this mixture of speed and power, Phillips can gracefully slide through the open B gap, and immediately bull over would-be tacklers at the second level.
The major concern with Phillips is his health. After missing significant time during his senior year, scouts were concerned with his ability to stay on the field. As the old saying goes, the best thing you can bring to a team is availability. This is yet to be seen, and won’t be seen until the pads come on.
Phillips is a long shot to make the final roster. As mentioned, the backfield is already crowded, but Phillips’ upside is tremendous. Time will tell if it’s enough to carve him a spot on the team. At the very least, he’s an early candidate to make the practice squad.
(Photo Credit: Old Miss Athletics)
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