New Texans running back David Johnson knows he is viewed as the player the team traded star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to get.
He is surprisingly comfortable with that, although he does admit to some pressure because he is that guy. In one of the most stunning offseason moves around the NFL, the Texans dealt their best receiving threat to Arizona for a running back who has seemed on the decline the past few years.
“A little bit, but honestly, I think I’ve always had pressure since 2016,” Johnson said Thursday when asked about the pressure of being seen as the key return in the Hopkins trade. “I like the pressure. It makes me want to be better. It makes me want to compete more and do everything I can to prove the doubters [wrong] or want to make (Bill) O’Brien look good and want to make this organization look good. I’m excited about this season and I can’t wait for it to officially get going.”
Most around the league and in the city were doing more than scratching their heads when O’Brien, the team’s general manager and head coach, made the deal in March. It seemed to defy logic considering Hopkins’ productivity, connection with quarterback Deshaun Watson and his rather cap friendly contract that still had years on it.
The trade was made even more curious because of Johnson’s hefty $11.1 million cap hit on the heals of him being injured in 2017, having a subpar season in 2018 and then being benched by the Cardinals last season.
But O’Brien said he has been pleased with what he has seen from Johnson so far in training camp.
“I would say David’s come in here and been very impressive,” O’Brien said. “In fantastic shape, smart, really picking up the offense well. We saw that in the spring. To see him in here in the walkthroughs and things we’re doing, I think he has high expectations for himself. That’s the type of guy he is. We have high expectations for him.”
Johnson, who will share the running back load with Duke Johnson, said the most difficult part of the transition has been not having a lot of on the field preparation due to the COVID-19 protocols that has forced much of the preparation time to come via Zoom.
“That’s been tough for me,” he said. “I’ve been more of a guy who needs to be out on the field, doing walkthroughs and being able to learn the offense that way. It’s been a little tough and a little challenging. Since I’ve been in the league and honestly, being forced to learn three different offenses in the last three years before this has helped me out in being able to know how to learn offenses.”
The lack of personal contact has also made it difficult for Johnson to really get to know his teammates. But he has been seeing one familiar face around the building and that is his good friend and former Arizona Cardinals teammate tight end Darren Fells. The two were young guys trying figure out the playbook and life in the NFL back in 2015.
They reminisce on those days now.
“We’re trying to do the same thing here in Houston and I’m glad that I get a familiar face here that I don’t have to learn,” Johnson said. “We can kind of talk to each other and I know how he plays already and it’s going to help out our offense a lot just because I know his tendencies, that he’s blocker for the run game and he’s good in the red zone, scoring touchdowns.”
Follow Terrance Harris on Twitter @terranceharris.