Texans need depth at running back behind Lamar Miller

HOUSTON -- As free agency gets closer, here’s a look at who the Houston Texans have returning and what they might need to add this offseason at each position.

Running back

Under contract for 2017: Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin, Kenny Hilliard.

Free agents: Jonathan Grimes, Akeem Hunt (exclusive rights).

How they fared in 2016: The Texans signed Miller to a four-year, $26 million contract last offseason to replace Arian Foster and to provide some consistency at the running back position. The signing worked out well for Houston, especially given the team’s situation at quarterback.

Entering the season, there was concern whether Miller’s body could hold up to the high number of touches he was expected to get in Houston, because he had not been given the ball as much in his first four NFL seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Miller dealt with multiple injuries for most of the season and missed two regular-season games, including the Texans’ Week 17 loss after they already clinched the AFC South. Before last season, he had not missed a game since his rookie year in Miami.

Miller finished the regular season with 1,073 yards on 268 carries and five touchdowns, as well as bringing in 31 catches for 188 yards and a touchdown in 14 games.

When Miller was hurt, the Texans tended to go running back by committee, especially because Blue also missed some time due to injuries. Houston generally used Blue as Miller’s backup, with Grimes and Hunt serving as situational backs. Ervin, Houston’s fourth-round pick, played on special teams and had just one carry for 3 yards.

Position outlook: Last season, the Texans entered training camp without much set in stone behind Miller, and that could be the case again this season.

The Texans could re-sign Grimes to play a similar role he had last season; he finished with 23 carries for 105 yards in five games.

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said he liked the different skill sets his backs had, which allowed him to use the group situationally, especially when Miller was hurt.

The Texans could draft a running back in the fourth or fifth round again, as Ervin primarily played on special teams and carried the ball just once last season. If Grimes does exit in free agency, Houston could look for Ervin to play a larger role on offense, specifically as a third-down back. Expect Blue to serve as Miller's direct backup once again.

If the Texans do not draft or add a running back during the offseason, expect Hilliard and Hunt to fight for a roster spot during training camp. Hunt impressed at times during the season and is two years younger than Hilliard, who finished last season on the team's practice squad.

Level of need (low, medium or high): Low.

By the numbers

74: Rushing attempts Miller had more than his last season in Miami, despite playing two fewer games.

8: Texans' rushing touchdowns during the regular season, which was tied for 29th in the NFL.