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Who is British Brooks? Breaking down the Texans UDFA RB | Sporting News

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The Texans brought in a small, focused undrafted class following the 2024 NFL draft.

Houston added two receivers in twin brothers Jadon and Jaxon Janke out of one of the deepest classes of receiver prospects as well as two linebackers at a position of need with Max Tooley and Tarique Barnes. The Texans then signed defensive tackle Pheldarius Payne at a position lacking in top-end talent. Finally, they signed running back British Brooks.

The Texans already have a much more competitive roster heading into this season as compared to recent years. So among this small class of undrafted free agent signings, the running back addition — as well as the sixth-round selection Jawhar Jordan — may have caught your attention.

Why did Houston sign Brooks? Was it due to the prospect, a potential special teams’ need or insurance for their running back depth?

Here’s more on former North Carolina running back British Brooks.

Who is British Brooks? Breaking down the Texans UDFA RB

Brooks was at North Carolina for six seasons from 2018 to 2023. He played in 50 games and rushed 140 times for 848 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. He didn’t record any receptions until his final year in which he had 14 for 73 yards (5.2 ypc) in 2023

Brooks was UNC’s special teams’ captain and MVP back-to-back years in 2020 and 2021. He missed the entire 2022 season after suffering a knee injury. His first game of his return in 2023 was against the last opponent he faced in the 2021 Duke’s May Bowl in the South Carolina Gamecocks. 

From 2018-2020 Brooks only rushed 19 times for 113 yards (6.0 yards per carry). In the Capital One Orange Bowl against Texas A&M to end the season, Brooks showed a glimpse of what was to come in the 2021 season with 15 carries for 53 yards (3.5 yards per carry). While it wasn’t a breakout performance on Jan. 2, 2021, it did signify an increased workload to come later that year.

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The season didn’t start great with Brooks only seeing four rushes for 10 yards and a touchdown against Georgia State. An injury suffered in that game kept Brooks out for almost the next two months. When he returned he rushed 27 times over the last three games for 285 yards (10.6 ypc) and three touchdowns. He turned a promising showing to start 2021 into a strong finish.

He was set to return for his fifth year in 2022 before the injury sidelined him for the entire season. After running for 72 yards on five carries (14.4 ypc) and a touchdown in his last action back on Dec. 30, 2021 against the Gamecocks. Brooks made his triumphant return against the same opponent on September 2nd, 2023 in which he ran 15 times for 103 yards (6.9 ypc) and a touchdown. He also secured the first three receptions of his career in that game for 18 yards.  

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The former walk-on at UNC, Brooks has a lot left on the tires with only 154 total touches in his college career. A lot was made of Dameon Pierce’s minimal workload and how he barely reached 100 rush attempts in each of his final two seasons at Florida. His 374 collegiate touches are almost 250% more than Brooks.

That’s not all Brooks and Pierce have in common.

Brooks’ comparison to Texans’ backup RBs

Brooks has similar measurements and timings with two of the Texans’ backup running backs, Dameon Pierce and Dare Ogunbowale. 

  Pierce Brooks Ogunbowale
Height 5-foot-10 5-foot-10 5-foot-11
Weight 224 pounds 219 pounds 213 pounds
Arm length 31 inches 29.5 inches 31.5 inches
Wingspan 6-foot-1.5 6-foot-1.5 6-foot-3.5
Hand Size 9.5 inches 9 inches 9 inches
40-Yard dash 4.59 4.59 4.65
Vertical jump 34.5 inches 37 inches 35 inches
Broad jump 9-foot-11 10-foot-3 10 feet
3-cone 7.53 7.09 6.99
Short Shuttle 4.46 4.43 4.34
Bench Reps 21 27 14

Blocking Brooks’ path

The rookie Jordan has a good shot at working his way up to the No. 2 spot at running back with his ability after the catch, shiftiness as a runner and ability to pass protect. Pierce is the favorite to be third or even second in the pecking order if he can hold off the rookie. Ogunbowale is a key special teamer as he tied for second on the Texans in special teams tackles in 2022 with 11. Last season he finished third with seven tackles. 

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As a running back, Ogunbowale isn’t more than a depth piece with 50 carries for 158 yards (3.2 yards per carry) and a touchdown with 22 receptions for 122 yards in 29 games with 4 starts for the Texans the last two seasons. 

Pierce has value on special teams as well after taking a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown this past year. He returned seven kicks for 225 yards and a touchdown in the regular season. The new NFL kickoff rules should benefit him if he returns to the role.

Brooks has special teams value and should be a better rusher than Ogunbowale and possibly Pierce. There’s a path for him to make it on the Texans’ 53-man roster. 

Brooks’ path to the 53

When a team with a roster as competitive as the Texans decides it’s worth adding an RB/ST player like Brooks, you pay attention. This could be a special teams coordinator Frank Ross’ addition as a special teams stud. 

Terrell Davis was a sixth-round rookie running back buried on the Broncos’ depth chart when he got his opportunity for Denver and made the most of it by blowing up a guy on special teams play in a preseason game in Tokyo, Japan. The rest is history.

Two of the best zone rushers of all time were unheralded backs that ran around 4.70 in Davis and undrafted Arian Foster. They also each played in schemes under Gary Kubiak and with either Mike or Kyle Shanahan. 

Davis’ running back coach, Bobby Turner, followed Mike Shanahan to Washington after leaving Denver, then joined Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta and San Francisco. Ryans spent several years with the 49ers with Turner and under Kyle Shanahan seeing how they execute the run scheme and what they expect from backs in the system. Texans’ offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik was also with the 49ers with Turner and Shanahan. 

This isn’t to say that Brooks will become the next Davis or Foster. Those two illustrate that draft status and 40-yard times don’t hold much weight to success in their scheme. Brooks has the patience, vision and power to contribute in the backfield with upside that Ogunbowale doesn’t possess. His staying power is in proven to Ross that he can play on par or better than Ogunbowale on special teams.

The ceiling for Ross in 2024 without injuries hitting the position is as the No. 4 running back if the Texans keep that many at the position. Brooks could burst through that ceiling and take the third spot from Pierce if he can show better production than Pierce with each having limited reps to prove their value in the backfield. Brooks is stout as a pass protector and can be trusted to protect C.J. Stroud.

Brooks should beat out Ogunbowale as the fourth running back on the depth chart if he stays healthy. However, if the Texans believe they could get him to and keep him on the practice squad, they could opt to keep Ogunbowale with Brooks as added depth or choose to keep only three backs on the 53-man roster with Brooks as a call-up if needed.

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