Is There Something Wrong with Arian Foster and the Texans Run Game?

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistOctober 2, 2012

Is Arian Foster stumbling?
Is Arian Foster stumbling?Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak had to answer questions about the running game Monday.

That should have been the headline.

Given that Arian Foster is on pace for a 1500-yard, 16-touchdown season, it's amazing that anyone is worried about the Texans run game.

Of course, it's in the media's nature to find things to complain about and in a coach's nature to worry about details, and the Texans aren't offering anything else to fret about.

Most of the mild hand-wringing centers around Foster's low yards per carry and some short-yardage failures by the Texans in Week 4. Foster is only averaging 3.7 yards a rush, down from 4.4 yards last year.

Backup Ben Tate has struggled as well, and he is also under four yards a carry on the year.

Kubiak didn't offer up much of an explanation for the "struggles."

I could sit here and give you a lot of things that I initially saw, but it’s going to go back to everybody who is involved. There was some good in the first half, two yards per carry was good. At the end of the day, probably the thing that’s bothering me the most is I think in the first half we score on two of four possessions if I’m right, maybe there was a fifth.

We miss 3rd-and-1 and we miss 3rd-and-2 running the ball. We have to convert a 4th-and-inches to stay on the field and score the touchdown. We’ve been pretty darn good converting 3rd-and-short, running the football as team. (RB) Arian (Foster) has been pretty good and that’s not the case right now. We got to look at ourselves, us as coaches, and what we’re doing and make sure we improve.

The coach-speak is virtually meaningless, and it's understandable why.

There aren't any easy answers for why Houston has labored more than usual running the football. It's true the offensive line has been retooled, but many of the problems have come running to the left where Duane Brown still resides.

Oddly enough, the Texans were fourth in the NFL running around left end through three weeks and 31st running off left tackle. Results like that scream "small sample size."

The issue could be Foster's heavy workload. He's on pace for 412 carries, which would be 85 more than his career high. Kubiak isn't buying that theory.

He can handle it, I know that. You never know how the season’s going to go and what it’s going to take to win each week. We’re giving Arian some breaks during the course of practice during the week. He looks fine to me. He’s holding up fine. He hasn’t missed any time other than the time we’ve given him.

Now we’re sitting here with this situation with Ben (Tate). We’ll see if he misses a few days or what happens. I’m going to play him according to how he’s playing, how he’s feeling, how he’s doing. He makes us go, so I’m not too concerned with that at this point.

Of course, when it comes to run-game inefficiency, it's not unusual for Foster to have rough spots. The Texans love to run in expected run situations. They've been sitting on big leads and have spent most of the fourth quarters of games grinding clock.

Foster has struggled with a low success rate before, and he's actually better this season. He was at 53 percent heading into the Titans game, and was "successful" on 12 of 24 runs in that contest.

In other words, if the issue is the effectiveness of the Texans run game with Foster, it's more effective in 2012 than it was 2011.

As long as the Texans keep winning big, and there's no reason to expect that trend to abate next week against the New York Jets, Foster will have suppressed yards-per-carry numbers.

There's nothing wrong with Foster, and no reason for concern in Houston.

All quotes provided courtesy of the Houston Texans via direct press release.