It just goes to show how spoiled Houston Texans fans have become since Arian Foster became their star running back. Just a few short years ago, fans would have killed for someone to break even 1,000 yards rushing consistently. Yet after a 1,424-yard, 15-touchdown season, fans called it a down year for Foster in 2012.
The biggest sticking point in the argument against Foster’s performance in 2012 was that he hit his lowest yards per carry count of his career at just 4.1, with just under 90 yards rushing per game. Conventional wisdom will point out that the team had a lead and was just running into a pile on a lot of those carries to eat the clock and preserve victories, but it did seem like a little bit of the magic was missing last season.
Foster never really took off on any of his signature “wow” runs last year. His longest run of the season went for 46 yards, and he fell down so much that many wondered if it was time to invest in some new cleats.
For as much as the faithful want to defend the right side of the offensive line in 2012, the proof is in Foster’s numbers while running that way last season. The fact is that Ben Tate got so far in Gary Kubiak‘s doghouse after routinely pulling up lame that Foster was extremely overused. With another season of 350-plus carries, we might be looking at a star runner hitting his decline far before the usual age of 30.
But how could things be different in 2013?
First of all, Tate is healthy (for the moment). Right away, this brings Foster’s carry count down 10 to a dozen times per game. Starting big Brandon Brooks on the right side of the line over what they threw out there last season is a good start, too.
Also, with an added weapon on offense like DeAndre Hopkins, this team can air it out if they want to, improving the success of the play-action and preventing an opponent from just stacking the box against him all game.
When everyone was wondering what happened to Matt Schaub at the end of last season, my conclusion was that he is a system quarterback and if the system isn’t working, he don’t work. Teams zeroed in on Foster and dared Schaub to beat them, and he isn’t that guy.
I know that sounds like I’m trying to have my cake and eat it, too. I still believe the team can win and win big with Schaub, but he’s never going to be that guy who is going to put the entire team on his back and carry them when everyone else is underperforming.
I’m getting far ahead of myself with that one, but Schaub playing better helps Foster and likewise. This offense is contingent on the play-action working, and that broke down in the final quarter of last season. With some better players out there in key situations and some fresh legs due to a decreased workload, I fully expect to see the Arian Foster of 2010 and 2011 this season.
But even if he isn’t, are we really that upset with 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns out of the team’s running back? Let’s just hope the numbers will come from fewer attempts this year, so that we will see him in a Texans uniform for a few more years.
Mike Kerns is a Houston Texans writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” his page on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also subscribe to his Texans podcast on iTunes.