Houston Texans: What to expect in 2015 without Arian Foster


Yesterday, one of the worst fears of the Houston Texans and their fanbase materialized with the injury of star running back Arian Foster.

Foster has been the key center point of the Texans’ offense for the past few seasons, but has dealt with injury every year since his breakout season in 2010, missing 11 games in the past 2 seasons alone. Foster was finally starting the offseason in good shape with nothing slowing him down, but the injury bug apparently caught up with him yet again as he sustained a severe groin injury in Monday’s training camp.

According to reports from sources such as NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, Foster is almost guaranteed to start the year on short-term Injury Reserve, meaning he can first play in Week 8 of the season. While this means the Texans could have him back in time for the first game against the Tennessee Titans, he still will miss at least  7 games. So how much is this going to affect the Texans season?

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Back in our Toro Times pre-camp season predictions, I said the Texans would finish with a 10-6 record (more details on that here). But that was with a healthy Arian Foster. As he will be out of the picture for a minimum of 7 games, those predictions have to be adjusted accordingly.

In those 7 games, I had the Houston Texans finishing with a 4-3 record, with wins vs Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Jacksonville. Now, without Foster, the Texans will have a much tougher time with this part of the schedule, and I think the best bet for the team at this point is 3-4 due to the tough games against KC and away at ATL.

But this is only the first 7 games. If Foster misses any more time, the results could get bad fast. Week 8 is a pretty simple matchup with the Titans, so the Texans would not miss him much. Week 9 is a bye week, but this is the latest I would want Foster out. It is critically important that Foster is back for Week 10, as Houston travels to Cincinnati to face the Bengals. This will be one of the toughest matchups of the season, and will be a crucial game for the Texans to win.

The Texans’ schedule doesn’t get any easier after that, with games against the remaining AFC East opponents, the New Orleans Saints, and the Colts at Indianapolis. The easiest opponents after the bye week will be TEN and JAX in the final two weeks of the season.

The difficulty of the schedule is only a small part of why the Texans need Foster back for as many healthy games as possible. The gameplan that head coach Bill O’Brien has built is one that relies heavily on the run game to control flow of the game and keep opposing offenses on the bench.

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While the Texans have other running backs, none of them are nearly as effective as Foster has been. In fact, since 2010, no player has accounted for more yards from scrimmage per game than Arian Foster, and that includes Adrian Peterson. Quite simply, there is no way to reproduce the production in the run game that Foster provides for this team.

If there is a positive to gleam from this situation though, it is that the Texans will finally be able to get a glimpse of the offense without Foster. The quarterbacks will get to show whether or not they have the ability to carry this offense, and the running backs will get to showcase their ability to see if any of them can serve as Foster’s heir to the backfield throne in the near future.

Perhaps most intriguing would be the possibility of a high draft pick. While most fans would not be happy if the Texans were to post a record deserving of a top 10 pick, it could pay off and put the franchise in a fantastic position over the next 10 years. The quarterback situation has long been unstable here in Houston, and the QB class in the 2016 Draft looks to feature 3 possible franchise selections, with Cardale Jones (Ohio State), Connor Cook (Michigan State), and O’Brien’s former QB Christian Hackenberg (Penn State) as preseason favorites.

The bottom line here is that Foster’s injury hugely impacts the Texans 2015 squad (and possibly the 2016 team as well). His production is irreplaceable, and his leadership will truly be missed. But while things may not turn out so well in the short-term, remember that this is still a very talented team with a lot of potential.

Keep your heads high, Texans fans. This team is on the up, and could be in position for a playoff run very soon in the future.

Next: Pierre Thomas to visit Texans