During their run of two straight AFC South titles in 2011 and 2012, the Houston Texans were very much a "ground-and-pound" football team. In each of those seasons, the Texans fielded a top-10 ground game, averaging over 130 yards a game.
Last year, injuries decimated the ground game, the team dropped to 20th in the NFL and the Texans won all of twice.
On Monday, the Texans took steps to insure there isn't a repeat in 2014.
With Arian Foster coming off his worst season since his rookie year, and Ben Tate now plying his trade in Cleveland, the Texans added some depth to the backfield Monday, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with tailback Andre Brown, according to John McClain of The Houston Chronicle:
Texans agree with RB Andre Brown.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) April 7, 2014
McClain also passed along word that, from a financial perspective, the deal doesn't carry much risk for the Texans:
Andre Brown signed one year for minimum $645,000.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) April 7, 2014
On the field, however, is another story.
Much like the aforementioned Foster, the 27-year-old Brown has had his issues with staying healthy. In each of his past two seasons with the New York Giants, Brown has broken his leg, missing a total of 14 games over that stretch as a result.
Even when Brown was on the field last year, he wasn't especially effective. The sixth-year veteran did gain a career-high 492 yards on the ground last year, but Brown managed only 3.5 yards per carry.
In fact, over the last three games of the 2013 season, that number plummeted to an anemic 1.7 yards per tote.
However, in Brown's defense the New York run game was a disaster from top to bottom last year, and the Texans are no doubt hoping they can turn back the clock a bit farther where Brown is concerned.
In 2012, Brown was much more impressive for Big Blue. Granted, he only carried the ball 73 times that season, but Brown averaged a much more robust 5.3 yards per attempt that year.
Even better, Brown showed himself to be an excellent goal-line and short-yardage back two years ago, punching in eight touchdowns in only 10 games while ranking fourth among running backs in yards after contact per attempt, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Per Pro Football Focus
If he can stay healthy, Andre Brown wasn't a game-breaking talent with otherworldly speed or quickness, but he was a downhill runner who took what defenses gave him. He was also a decent pass-blocker, ranking in the top 25 among running backs, per PFF.
What grade would you assign to the Andre Brown signing?
In many respects, that better be the back the Texans are getting, because they're apt to need him at some point this year.
Foster has now missed at least three games in two of the past three seasons. In the one season where Foster did play all 16 games, he touched the ball nearly 400 times. Many pundits point to that workload as the cause of Foster's troubles last year.
In a perfect world, Brown and Foster will both stay healthy, and Brown will serve as a complementary piece in the backfield. With that said, though, there's also a very real chance that Foster will miss time at some point.
In that respect, the Texans needed to beef up their insurance policy. Tate's departure in free agency left a group of rather unappealing options behind Foster on the depth chart, none of whom the Texans want to have to depend on for any length of time.
ESPN's Tania Ganguli believes the Texans aren't necessarily done upgrading the backfield:
That may well be, as bringing Brown on board isn't exactly a game-changer of a signing.
What Brown is, however, is a capable veteran who has shown the ability to perform when called upon in the past, and the Texans were able to get him for the veteran minimum.
Given that, it's an easy deal to like for Houston.