The Texans must run the ball better.
Head Coach David Culley's said so. Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly reiterated it. Running Backs Coach Danny Barrett and Offensive Line Coach James Campen both echoed the sentiment. Numerous players have harped on it.
Throughout organized team activities (OTAs), two main objectives were repeated by coaches and players who met with the media: get more takeaways on defense, and run the ball better.
"That's a mindset," Culley said Wednesday. "Hopefully, we're going to be a little better than we were last year at doing that and still maintain the effectiveness that we've had throwing the ball here in the past."
The Texans were a middle-of-the-road team with 4.3 yards per carry last season. That mark was tied for 14th best in the NFL. But they were next-to-last in the League in carries (344), total rushing yards (1,466), and rushing yards per game (91.6). Plus, only the Jets and Jags (nine apiece) had less than the Texans 10 rushing touchdowns in 2020. Kelly explained what must change in 2021.
"I've got to do a better job calling more runs," Kelly said. "Going back and looking at it, I've got to do a good job calling more runs and letting our backs and our line get into a rhythm and get into a groove as far as how that game's being played out up front. Each year you go into the offseason looking at different schematic ways and personnel ways that you can improve, and we feel like we've done that."
An aspect of the run game that might help Kelly and the Texans accomplish improvement, is better play up front. Offensive Line Coach James Campen said Tuesday that he expects battles for all of the spots on the line, and getting better in run blocking is of paramount importance.
"Linemen like to get to close," Campen said. "We don't like to play as much in space, so we like to run the ball. I think it's something in the mentality of it. It's been around forever for linemen who have - it doesn't matter if you're in high school ball or you're in professional, running the football is an attitude."
That attitude was one of the attractions of the Texans, according to Justin Britt. In talking with Campen prior to signing with Houston in free agency, Britt was enthused about the possibilities here.
"We wanted to come in and start up front and set the tone with the run game and build off that with the pass game," Britt said. "The guys we have up front are all kind of tough, mean guys and they want to run the ball and be aggressive as big guys do. You bring in guys like Mark Ingram (II), Phillip Lindsay, D.J. (David Johnson) who's still here. You've got people who can do it and you just have to put it all together. It doesn't matter what happened last year. This is a whole new team."
The Texans have wrapped up OTAs, and won't be together on the practice field again until late July, when training camp begins. But when they're back at the Houston Methodist Training Center later this summer, getting better in the ground attack will be a major area of focus.