The Houston Texans’ running game could struggle against the Oakland Raiders when the teams meet Monday night in Mexico City, Mexico.
Houston enters this week with the No. 5 rushing attack in the NFL, averaging 121.4 yards a game. But the Texans will be without two of their top three running backs for the game, and starter Lamar Miller has been bothered by an ankle issue. That is horrible news for a team that is averaging a league-low 4.3 yards per pass attempt since Week 7 per ESPN Stats and Info.
Houston (6-3) has ridden their running game to three victories in the past four games. The Texans rushed for 181 yards on 33 carries in their 24—21 victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. Miller compiled 83 yards on 15 carries, which includes a 45-yard gallop. Akeem Hunt added 52 yards on the ground on eight attempts while Alfred Blue had seven carries for 23 yards.
Miller, the seventh leading rusher in the NFL at 80 yards a game, has been limited in practice this week. Yet, the 25-year-old told Mark Berman of Fox26 that he will be “good to go” on Monday.
Miller has done most of his damage lately without a lot of carries. He has averaged at least 5.5 yards per carry in three of his last four games. Overall, Miller has four games of 80 yards plus and two 100-yard performances. He also has 22 receptions for 124 yards.
Hunt and Jonathan Grimes will not be available against Oakland, reports the Houston Chronicle. Blue injured his calf against the Jaguars, and hasn’t practiced this week. He is second on the team with 225 yards on 46 carries (4.9 yards per carry). Grimes is out due to illness once again. The 26-year-old has not played since October 30.
Those injuries leave Blue along with Tyler Ervin and fullback Jay Prosch as the only other healthy backs for the Texans. Hunt, in his season debut, was impressive against the Jaguars. The 23-year-old second year back would have had more yardage, but a third-quarter run for 33 yards was called back because of a penalty.
“I thought he gave us a spark and that’s what we were looking for,” O’Brien told Sarah Barshop of ESPN. “I thought he had earned the right to be on the 53-man roster through his play on the look team, the scout team and on the practice squad. I thought that he came in there and did a nice job for us.”
Ervin has not seen many snaps on offense though the 2016 fourth-round draft pick has been a valuable contributor on special teams. The 23-year-old is averaging 20.2 yards per kick return and 10.7 yards per punt return. He has one carry for three yards, and three receptions for five yards on the season. Prosch also doesn’t get many touches on offense.
Oakland’s defense limited Denver to 33 yards on 12 carries in their last game. However, the Raiders have permitted teams to surpass the century mark in three of the last four games and six times total. The Raiders are giving up 114.8 yards a game and 4.7 yards per carry on the ground, overall.
Receivers Will Fuller V and Jaelen Strong among several other Texans on injured list
Houston has a total of 17 players on its injured list. Strong has also been ruled out of the game with an ankle injury. The 22-year-old wide receiver sprained his ankle during a game in Week 8 against Detroit on October 30, and has been out since.
Fuller’s availability is a real concern as he has been limited in practice and is a game time decision. The 22-year-old has been out of action since injuring his knee on October 30. Fuller is the Texans’ big-player receiver with eight receptions of 20 yards or more. He has 25 catches for 372 yards with 140 yards coming after the catch.
Nose tackle Vince Wilfork (groin) and defensive end Jadevon Clowney (wrist) also were limited in practice on Saturday. Wilfork and Prosch (hamstring) are the only other player in jeopardy of missing Monday’s game as they are listed as questionable.
The Raiders are healthy as ever
Oakland (7-2) is coming off a bye which helped them get healthy. The Raiders have had all 53 players on their roster practice the last three days. Still, six players are listed on the injury list as they are questionable as they were limited in practice all three days: Wide receiver Amari Cooper (back), center Rodney Hudson (knee), defensive tackle Stacy McGee (ankle), running back Latavius Murray (ankle), guard Kelechi Osemele (knee), and cornerback Sean Smith (shoulder).
[Featured Image by Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Images]