Foster's yards per carry have declined steadily over the past three years, but he still averaged a respectable 4.1 last season. The former undrafted free agent out of Tennessee did see a huge drop in his receiving numbers, but that shouldn't last.
Tight end James Casey and wide receiver Kevin Walter are no longer in the fold, but Houston did add first-round receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who figures to complement Andre Johnson nicely on the outside when he returns from a concussion he suffered in the second preseason game.
That should help open up running lanes for Foster at least a little bit, while making him a more logical option in the middle of the field on checkdowns since Hopkins is more of a vertical threat.
After being recently activated from the PUP list, head coach Gary Kubiak discussed how Foster looked in his first practice Wednesday, and all indications were positive, via ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli:
He looked good, he looked fresh to me, he looked quick. The biggest thing is he had a smile on his face with his reps and he felt positive. We'll go in and see how he feels after practice and hopefully we take a bunch of steps forward this week.
Kubiak also emphasized that while he wouldn't at all mind Foster getting some reps in preseason game action, it isn't vital for his No. 1 running back heading into the Sept. 9 opener:
I would love to, but we're going to be smart... Is it a must [that he carry the ball in the preseason in order] to be ready for San Diego [in the season opener]? I don't think so.
...The key is that we just have a couple of good weeks of practice and bring him along as if he's just started training camp.
As Foster recovers from an ailing back, he has been receiving injections to help with the pain. That sounds rather ominous, but it seems Kubiak is singing a far different tune after seeing him in action.
The fluid running style and versatility that Foster brings to the Texans offense should allow him to have yet another productive campaign. Foster is a patient, prolific runner who feels he will indeed be ready for the Monday night Week 1 showdown in San Diego, per ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Texans RB Arian Foster, asked if he'll be ready for the regular-season opener vs the Chargers on Monday Sept. 9: “Yeah, I’ll be ready.”— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 22, 2013
Should Arian Foster play in the preseason if healthy enough?
Running back is the most volatile skills position in football, with age 30 being the dooming milestone for many players in recent years. Notable among them was former San Diego Chargers star LaDainian Tomlinson.
Thankfully for Houston, Foster is only turning 27 on Thursday and should still be able to retain his All-Pro level for at least another couple of years.
This is the window that the Texans' nucleus has to win a Super Bowl, though, so Kubiak and Co. have to make sure Foster is ready to go. What's encouraging is that Kubiak feels Foster could play now and may just keep Foster out of the last two preseason contests as a precaution.
Resting up for the entire preseason may not be beneficial to some, but given Foster's understanding of Kubiak's complex offense and his raging success in the scheme, any extra rest he can get—injured or not—is not at all detrimental to how he will play overall in the 2013 regular season.