Texans settling on committee-style backfield

Updated: October 8, 2003, 5:02 PM ET
ESPN

HOUSTON -- Mac Davis is a Texas singer-songwriter known for pining about Lubbock in his rearview mirror and how hard it is to be humble.

Mack-Davis is the Texans' two-headed running back that seems to be emerging as the answer to the team's dormant rushing attack.

Stacey Mack remains the nominal starter for Houston, which heads to Tennessee on Sunday at 2-2 after its bye week. But shifty rookie Domanick Davis is becoming a more prominent part of the Texans' attack. In Houston's 24-20 victory over Jacksonville two weeks ago, each had nine carries as they combined for 92 yards and a Mack touchdown.

"We left a lot of yardage out there as a group, and I think we're going to be better (as we enter) this part of the season," Mack said.

Injuries have affected the backfield's progress. Mack has had sore toes on both feet. Davis missed training camp because of a broken hand. Rookie Tony Hollings is still learning on the job after major knee surgery last year.

Mack, a bruiser assigned mostly to short-yardage duty for four years at Jacksonville, signed with the Texans in the offseason to be the feature back. So far he has only averaged 2.9 yards per run, and his 130-carry fumble-free streak stopped with back-to-back drops against the Jaguars.

Davis, who has more of a scatback's build, was on the field for the Texans' dramatic final drive against Jacksonville that ended with David Carr's do-or-die sneak as time expired.

Mack said he's comfortable sharing the load depending on the situation, as long as the running back corps performs well as a unit.

"These young guys are learning, and I feel like we're going to get better as a group," Mack said.

A productive running game would open up the passing game for Carr, who was battered last season when teams weren't worried much about the backfield tandem of James Allen and Jonathan Wells. Allen left the team over the summer. Wells is hanging on as the Texans' fourth-string tailback, getting most of his action on kick coverage teams.

Hollings, picked up in the supplemental draft this year for a 2004 second-round pick, is eyed as a possible feature back of the future, but fumble problems and inexperience have kept him from getting much action.

"I'm happy with the way Stacey's running, and I'm happy with the way Domanick's running, and Tony -- all those guys," Carr said. "All those guys add something different to the football team. Domanick does a great job catching the ball out of the backfield and he's starting to learn his responsibilities in the passing game, and Tony's the same way.

"You don't have to worry about Stacey as much because he knows his protections and whatnot."

Carr said Davis showed great improvement against Jacksonville in his blocking, a task young rushers often have trouble learning. Carr is especially impressed that Davis has managed to soak up offensive coordinator Chris Palmer's system so well despite being sidelined in August.

"He didn't just sit on the (stationary) bike and pedal," Carr said. "He actually took the time to come over and see what we were doing."

^NOTES:@ Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher noted the Texans can be dangerous with extra time to prepare. The Texans are 2-1 the week after not playing a regular-season game. They have won both their season openers and lost a shootout to Buffalo after their bye last year. ... The Texans have considerably more yardage than this time last year. They have 1,306 yards, up from 774 heading into the fifth week of 2002. Most improvement has come through the air: Houston has 887 yards passing, more than double the 418 yards at this time last year.

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