Foster: Texan for Offense
Patrick D. Starr
Background: How and Why Arian (and the Texans) are Different
We keep hearing about the diminishing role of the running back in the NFL with increased importance on the passing game, tight end sets that confuse defenses (for now) and how it’s a quarterback-driven league. Tell that to the Texans. Repeating myself here, but when a pass receiving beast like Andre Johnson says last year that the offense goes through Arian Foster, that right there tells us the Texans are doing things a little differently than everyone else.
Sure, we picked up a ton of receivers in the draft and after, plus a couple of UDFA tight ends but it appears as though the team fully expects Arian to live up to his new contract, which in all actuality is still underpaid, in my humble opinion, and the Texans plan to continue putting the offense in his capable hands. Arian’s new contract puts him tied for the 8th highest paid RB (www.spotrac.com) behind guys he has KILLED stat-wise in the last two years and the 4th highest paid Texan, according to base salaries. Thank baby Jesus he’s not a free agent until 2017.
Of course the Texans have TE Owen Daniels to rely on, plus a new role for FB/TE James Casey, whom Kubiak wants “all over the place” in 2012 and developing TE Garrett Graham, not to mention WRs Johnson, Jean, Walter, QBs Schaub and Yates. But it’s obvious that, unless they rewrite the playbook, Arian Foster playing the RB position as a halfback is the key component in this offense and Foster is the current undisputed best back in the league. The rushing yards are important obviously but really, as hybrid offenses make their way up from the collegiate ranks and with passing being the key component it is, we cannot ignore an RB’s receiving yards, which is so often done by media outlets when comparing backs.
Arian By the Numbers
To prove my Arian-is-the-#1-back-currently-in-the-NFL theory, I delved into the stats, deciding to only look at RBs who had over 1,000 yards rushing in both 2010 and 2011, given that rushing is the RB's primary job. I included injured but competitive RBs Peterson and Forte, simply to examine the game averages more closely. Eliminating those rushers under 1000 yards in 2010 and 2011 other than Peterson and Forte leaves us with the following 10 players:
What are the key take-aways proving my point?
- Arian ties Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jags for the highest average rushing yards per game played in 2010 and 2011. Interesting to note that Foster’s current stiffest rushing competition is in our AFC South division.
- Arian leads the league over the last 2 years in total yards per game, rushing and receiving for RBs, with 140/game. The next closest are MJD and Rice with about 120 yards/game. McCoy and Forte average about 110.
- Arian is the only RB in the league who averaged over one score per game in which he played over the last two years. The only one. McCoy and Peterson were close but not quite. After that no other RB compares.
- Arian is 2nd only to Ray Rice in RB receiving yards. Some teams focus on TEs, some focus on the longer passing game, but for both Houston and Baltimore, the rushers are key components in the passing game. This scheme obviously works for both the Texans and Ravens as evidenced by each teams' competitive 2011.
Impact on the Texans Offense
As we can see, Arian was second only to Owen Daniels in terms of number of receptions and receiving yards, had 9 receptions over 20 yards, 3 over 40 yards and 19 for 1st downs in 2011. He broke off a 78-yarder for heaven's sake. If we consider Foster missed 3 games due to injury, he may have been the Texans #1 rusher AND receiver last year. Arian Foster was easily the Texans offensive MVP on the year. Add in that he's not scared to make mean blocks and what we've got here is a gem of a RB.
Even in 2010, when Foster was the NFL Rushing Champion (in his first year as a starter) he was only behind Andre Johnson and ever-so-slightly off Kevin Walter's yards for receiving on the year. With 66 receptions, a long of 50 yards and 2 receiving TDs in 2010, Arian was a strong contributor in the Texans’ receiving game even then.
Where Improvement is Needed
The only problem: Arian has the 2nd highest number of both fumbles and fumbles lost per game over the last two years for RBs behind only Ced Benson. Foster averages almost 1 fumble per 5 games. With everything Foster gives the Texans fans, if he is able to improve this one area of his game, Texans fans can continue counting on him providing the backbone of our offense to complement our outstanding defense.
He knows this. We have no reason to believe Arian Foster isn’t his own biggest critic. He’s a proven work horse, coming from chaos at Tennessee to a draft that didn’t pick him, to the Texans practice squad, to starting running back, to best back in the league. He deserves our faith and loyalty – look at all he gives us in return.
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