This offseason, one of the biggest questions in Houston is. “What will the Houston Texans running backs look like in 2014?”
Anyone who has followed the Texans over the last few years, or even closely followed the NFL, knows the name Arian Foster.
Foster burst on to the seen in 2010 with a historic opening day performance against the Indianapolis Colts, and has been one of the top backs in the NFL ever since.
If you know Foster, however, you know his well-documented injury history. His college career at Tennessee was riddled with various injuries, and in his three full seasons as Texan, he’s missed a total of 11 full games due to injuries, and seen his production dip on various occasions due to his not being 100-percent healthy.
So while Foster may be one of the best backs in the league in terms of talent, its difficult to rely on him game-to-game, and as the 2014 NFL season looms in the distance, we have to wonder what the Texans’ ground game will look like?
Can Arian Foster stay healthy?
For the last few seasons, Foster has been blessed with one of the NFL’s best No. 2 running backs in Ben Tate. Tate was an excellent spell for Foster.
Texans running back Arian Foster has spent a lot of time on the sideline due to injuries. Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Johnson and Johnathan Grimes are definite possibilities as far as being Foster backups, but I don’t anticipate either of them having much of a role outside of that.
They combined for a 3.6 yards per carry average in limited action towards the end of last season, not exactly stellar. They know the offense, however, and this as always may play a factor in their usage this next season.
Former New York Giants running back Andre Brown was signed by Houston in April, giving them a potentially skilled backup to Foster.
Brown, however has had his fair share of injuries. Brown missed his rookie season with ruptured achilles, and once he finally received another solid chance of playing time in the NFL missed game after game with leg injuries.
If he can stay healthy, however, Brown brings power and versatility to the Texans back field. In 11 games as the Giant’s goal-line back in 2012, Brown totaled eight touchdowns.
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In 2013, the Texans ranked 28th in the league in red-zone touchdown efficiency, and managed only seven total touchdowns on the ground. If Brown can keep himself on the field, I’m excited to see him power into the end zone.
The other player with potential to make a huge impact for the Texans this season is rookie Alfred Blue, from LSU.
The Texans grabbed Blue in the sixth round (181st overall), and should be glad to have grabbed him that late.
Blue only started seven games in his 40-game career, but LSU coach Les Miles claims that before his 2012 injury, Blue may have very well been the best running back in the SEC.
Jan 1, 2014; Tampa, Fl, USA; LSU Tigers running back Alfred Blue (4) stiff arms Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Anthony Hitchens (31) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Blue doesn’t have a huge resume, but it appears as though he as all the physical traits necessary to be a solid NFL player. I anticipate him coming in early and often, and playing a role in the Texans backfield, but his limited work in college really leaves a lot of questions.
The Texans have traditionally been one of the most run-heavy teams over the last few seasons, and new head coach Bill O’Brien seems poised to continue the same, especially with all the uncertainty at the quarterback position.
It’s pretty hard to predict what the Texans backfield will really look like once the 2014 season reaches us, but one thing is for certain, it will be lead by Foster.
Hopefully that is all that will really matter, and Foster will return to his form from ’10-12, and everyone else will just fill in small roles around him.
If he can’t overcome his injuries, however, look for Andre Brown and Alfred Blue to compete to fill his role, and always be on the lookout for some unknown guys to come in and steal the spotlight. After all, if Foster could do it, who could be next?