Why 2013 Is the Perfect Year to Lighten the Load on Arian Foster in Houston
The Houston Texans have evolved into an offensive powerhouse in recent years, and with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins to finally give them a No. 2 wide receiver, they should be even better.
With the passing game opened up big time for 2013, the running game should be tweaked accordingly, namely when it comes to Arian Foster.
There's no question that Arian Foster has been one of the best running backs in the league since he burst onto the scene with 1,616 yards in 2010, but he's not at three seasons with a huge workload, and that's not something a running back can go through year after year.
He ran 327, 278 and 351 times the past three seasons, and that's not counting his high reception numbers (for a running back) on top of that. In short, as great as he is, the last thing the Texans should be doing is giving him 350 carries again.
The main reason is that there's no need to create wear and tear too early. Larry Johnson wasn't the same after 400 carries in 2006, and while some running backs have no trouble with a 300-carry workload, it's not ideal in today's NFL.
Besides, the Texans have some depth at running back that they seem reluctant to use in Ben Tate. Tate was drafted high in 2010, and while he showed some good work in 2011, he has mostly been a benchwarmer since.
In fact, the 2011 season may be a good benchmark for what the Texans should aim for. Foster had 278 carries and Tate 175 for what was an elite rushing offense. It helps that Tate appears healthy after having injury issues last year.
If the resurgence of Tate and the raw numbers don't make you think about a cooldown, then let's look at one last batch of numbers, namely contracts.
Tate is in a contract year. If there's going to be a year where he actually looks the part of a good running back, it's going to be this year. The fact that he will have OTAs and minicamp should get him ready to go once training camp starts.
As for Foster, he is in the second year of a five-year, $43.5 million contract. While NFL contracts may work differently than other leagues, the fact remains that the Texans cannot let him start to break down in year two.
I'm not saying to cut his touches big time, but he will be just as effective in the 280-carry range, especially if his yards per carry average bounces back. It was only 4.1 this past season, a far cry from 4.9 when he broke out in 2010.
If Tate and the passing game more than make up for it, I don't think anyone would mind Foster having "only" 280 to 300 carries and 1,300 or so yards on the year, particularly if he leads the league in touchdown runs again.
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