Reporting Paul Gallant
When the Texans signed running back Arian Foster to a five-year, $43.5 million contract back in March – it was a big time risk.
Foster’s worth that kind of dough. And if you’ve done your homework – you’d know he earned every dime – especially after playing for pennies the previous three seasons in Houston.
But those aren’t the issues.
In today’s NFL, it’s tough to count on the health of a running-back from game to game. As a result teams have adapted. The days of one work-horse back powering the ground attack are gone. Most teams have gone to a platoon system of sorts. The Texans – who feature both Foster AND Ben Tate – are one of those teams.
Oh wait…whoops. The Texans WERE one of those teams.
It’s been hard to be critical of the Bulls on Parade during their 4-0 start. But despite arguably the best 1-2 combination of running backs in the NFL, Gary Kubiak has been working Foster over-time.
Through four games, Arian has carried the ball an NFL-high 103 times. The next most attempts? 92 from Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. Subtract an additional 10 rushes, and you’ll find the rest of the pack.
If you do a little math, you’d see that Foster is on pace for a whopping 412 carries – That’s just 4 shy of the NFL Record set in 2006 by Larry Johnson. And if you factor receptions into the equation – Arian will have 448 touches by the end of the season.
Yeah. That’s kind of a lot.
Here’s the problem. After his 416 attempt season, Johnson was never the same back – playing no more than twelve games a season the rest of his career.
I’m not saying the same will happen with Foster – though it’s certainly possible. But the Texans can’t have number 23 worn out heading into the playoffs – especially with the money they have invested in him. With this current work load, the chances of that are pretty high.
So why not work Ben Tate into the mix? He’s obviously talented. Hell, he’d be a starter on most other teams. Plus, if you make more of an effort to split carries between Foster and him, you’ll have two fresh running backs heading into the playoffs.
Sounds simple right?
Maybe not. Maybe the best plan is to give Arian Foster the ball 200,000 times. We’ll see if Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison keep Foster working at this grueling pace.