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No Panic, But There Is Plenty of Concern Over Texans Ground Attack

By TERRANCE HARRIS, SportsRadio 610
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Arian Foster (credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Arian Foster (credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

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HOUSTON (CBS Houston)  –Texans running back Arian Foster described his rushing performance during Sunday’s season opener as smooth.

Sometimes you have to wonder what parallel universe is Foster on. And this was one of those times.

The Texans, who boasted one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL last season, were anything but smooth in their ground attack during Sunday’s 30-10 win over Miami. They were stuck in neutral and going backwards when they should have been in drive during long stretches against the Dolphins.

If that trend continues it’s obvious the Texans won’t be who they want to be offensively.

“I wasn’t satisfied, either,” said left tackle Duane Brown, joining his head coach Gary Kubiak in expressing disappointment after in the rushing attack after Wednesday’s practice. “We really hang our hat on our running game. We like to get the game going by establishing our running game and we weren’t able to do that in the Miami game.”

The question is why?

From the looks of it there was plenty of blame to go around as to how the Texans could manage a meager 83 yards and 2.4 yards per carry on 35 rushing attempts against the Dolphins. It started up front where the Texans were starting two new offensive linemen on the right side in guard Antoine Caldwell and tackle Derek Newton. The continuity issues were hard to miss.

Foster, one of the premiere running backs in the league, also didn’t seem to have the energy he normally plays with and then same went for backup running back Ben Tate. Foster ran for 79 yards and two touchdowns but he averaged just 3.0 yards per carry on 26 attempts.

The Texans ran the ball decently in the second quarter when four turnovers by the defense helped produce a quick 24 points, which included both of Foster’s rushing touchdowns. But the Dolphins and their eight-man front swarmed to the ball and took away the ground game’s effectiveness throughout most of the second half.

The ineffectiveness was especially glaring in the fourth quarter when an early drive stalled after the Texans moved to first-and-goal at the 3.  Foster picked up two yards on first down, then he got stuffed for no yards when he ran to the right side on the next play. That was followed up with  Matt Schaub incomplete pass to Owen Daniels on third down, which forced the offense to settle for a 19-yard field goal.

Later in the fourth quarter, the Texans had back-to-back three-and-out series when they amassed just 10 yards on six rushing attempts to sum up the day on the ground.

“I think everybody in the building needs to do a better job in the running game, me included,” said offensive coordinator Rick Dennision.

No argument there.  With a running game that is as lethal as the Texans, they sure to continue to see defenses stacking the line scrimmage to stop the run first. That opens up some things in the passing game for receiver Andre Johnson and Daniels but it also makes the Texans one-dimensional.

That could be an issue as the schedule and defenses get tougher starting with Sunday’s game against AFC South rival Jacksonville.

“I think they are just talented, they are a big group up front which Jacksonville is the same,” Dennison said of both Miami and Jacksonville’s defensive fronts. “They are big people and they are very talented. It will certainly be a challenge for us this week. Schemes are different, but we’ve just got to keep working and do what we do best and not worry about the other side of the ball. Let’s just do what we do best and we should be in good shape.”

And that doesn’t mean making drastic changes. The Texans still have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL and if safeties continue to play too close to the line scrimmage, the Texans will make them pay with Johnson going deep on one-on-one coverage.

What has to happen is the offensive line has to gel and get in synch with the running backs. Foster has to run with the toughness that has seen him gain 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons and fullback James Casey has to create holes to run through.

“I think that would be the worst thing we could do is to all of sudden start branching out for something we haven’t done,” Kubiak said. “We actually started the game running the ball and doing what we wanted to do but we just didn’t finish the game good with the type of things we do against eight-man fronts. We have to stay committed to it.

“The positives are we threw the ball extremely well but before it’s all said and done we have to be a good running football team. We have a couple of guys back there so we have to make sure they touch the ball every week. We just got to be better somehow.”

That the Texans sound certain they will do.

“We understand we really have to make it a point of emphasis this week,” Brown said. “It’s something we hang our hat on, we are known to be a run-first team and known to be a running group. Without that we can’t get our offense going the way we want to so we will get it going.”

Contact Terrance Harris at terrancefharris@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @Terranceharris

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