The Houston Texans in 2014 signed several free agents prior to training camp. What makes general manager Rick Smith great is his ability to sign quality undrafted street free agents. Smith signed an undrafted free agent in 2014 that could have been potentially the answer to Houston backfield woes.
Currently the Houston Texans employ a running back by committee approach to fill in the absence of Arian Foster. Unfortunately, the backfield that consists a steady dose of former sixth round pick Alfred Blue, 2015 free agent acquisition Chris Polk, undrafted free agent Jonathan Grimes and 2015 undrafted street free agent Akeem Hunt.
The biggest problem with the running backs in Houston is that none of them have shown any consistency. The ensemble of mediocrity employed by Houston have amassed an atrocious 3.5 yards-per-carry over the first thirteen games. Currently Houston ranks 29th out of 32 teams in the yards per attempt department.
When evaluating the problem one must simply take a look at the personnel in the backfield. former sixth round pick Alfred Blue was simply handed the starting job for Houston as he is the only running back on the roster who was drafted by the organization. Of the team’s five rushing touchdowns, which ranks 25th in the league, Alfred Blue accounts for two of them. Out of the team’s 340 rush-attempts and 1201-yards, Blue accounts for 127 touches for a pitiful 44-yards. Add that up and Blue meets the team’s average this season with 3.5 yards-per-attempt.
Nov 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans running back Chris Polk (22) rushes during a game against the New Orleans Saints at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Polk compliments the Houston’s rush per attempt average clocking in at a whooping 3.6 yards-per-carry over 70 attempts for 252-yards. Polk also accounts for one of the team’s five rushing touchdowns.
The biggest upside of the awful backfield is the emergence of Jonathan Grimes. This is Grimes third stint with the team and he seems to be the only one trying to play for his job every time he gets to touch the football. Out of his 38 attempts, Grimes has accounted for 177-yards for a nice average of 4.7-yards-per-attempt. Grimes also has the longest rush for the 2015 Texans when he broke out for a 21-yard run in week one in a loss against the Kansas City Chiefs. Eleven weeks later, no Texan running back has had a run longer than Grimes’s 21-yard rush.
Now when looking at all the options, the Texans do not have future feature running back, or even a rotational back for the future return of Arian Foster. So the organization clearly understood the problem early on in the season as they brought in a few running backs to work out. Houston elected to trying to negotiate with an aging Pierre Thomas despite his awful workout performance. Negotiations fell apart in less than an hour and the team decided to stay the course with their mediocre stable of backs. What fans don’t know is that the answer to the future rotational back was at that workout and his name most certainly was not Pierre Thomas.
If you were the general manager for the Houston Texans and you were given two options to fill your fourth running back spot who would you take?
The two options presented to the Texans will be referred to as Option A and Option B for the purpose of this argument. Also, it should be noted that both options are undrafted free agents so both would not really affect the salary cap.
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The best sample size to compare Option A and Option B is their last two collegiate years since none have made a regular season appearance prior to the 2015 season. Option A in two seasons had 296 rush attempts for 1,413 yards coming in at 4.7 yards-per-carry. Option A also scored 7 rushing touchdowns in addition to a 82 career long rush. Option A pulled in 86 over two seasons for 633 yards for a 7.3 yard average per-catch. Option A also grabbed 4 touchdowns to go along with a 79 yard career long reception.
Option B did not get as many touches over two seasons as Option A as Option B only rushed the football 253 times for 1,359 yards for a solid 5.3 yards-per-attempt. Option B clocked a career long 59 yard run to go along with a staggering 18 rushing touchdowns. Option B did not get as many looks in the passing attack but still managed to grab 39 catches for 301 yards coming in for a 7.7 yards per reception to go along with 2 two scores.
Now the final factor to take into consideration is what kind of competition did each player face?
Option A played in the Big Ten conference and over the course of twenty four games faced seven ranked teams. Option B played in the South Eastern Conference and had the opportunity to play in twenty six games (Option B’s team qualified for bowl games) while getting to face eleven ranked opponents.
Now who would want at that fourth running back spot when taking into consideration all those facts? What if I told you the Texans signed Option B to the practice squad only to cut him after two stints with the team? Knowing that it should also be worth mentioning that the Texans got to face Option B in a preseason matchup in 2015. Option B rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown against a Texans team that released him a few weeks prior to that contest.
The Texans decided to sign Option A in Akeem Hunt out of Purdue University on November 21st. The Cowboys decided to sign Option B in Ben Malena out of Texas A&M University on December 2nd.