The sky is falling in Houston. The end is nigh. Repent.
OK, so that may be pushing it, but you'll have to forgive the Houston Texans if they feel differently Tuesday. Because with star running back Arian Foster falling prey to a groin injury on the first day of padded practices, the Texans are now in full-on scramble mode.
And the first thing they should be scrambling for is the telephone, because if there's an answer to the question of what to do in light of this disaster, it's not presently on their roster.
After the injury, it didn't take long for reports to surface that the oft-hurt 28-year-old's latest setback was not a minor one:
Jayson Braddock of ESPN Radio in Houston speculated that surgery would make Foster a candidate for injured reserve/designated for return, which would wipe out at least half of his regular season:
And then Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston broke the news everyone feared—Foster has to go under the knife:
To say this is bad news for the Texans is an understatement. Foster, who gained 1,246 rushing yards in 13 games last year, is without question the focal point of an offense that ran the ball more than any team in the NFL in 2014.
Houston has all sorts of issues at quarterback. Wide receiver Andre Johnson is now plying his trade up the road with the Texans' AFC South rival in Indy. If the team is going to build on last year's surprising 9-7 record and vie for a playoff spot in 2015, then it needs to run the ball effectively.
Good luck with that given what's presently behind Foster on the depth chart.
Alfred Blue made three starts in place of an injured Foster a year ago but averaged all of 3.1 yards per carry. Behind the same line, Foster picked up 4.8 yards a pop. Chris Polk carried the rock 46 times for the Eagles in 2014 and averaged 3.7 yards a carry behind arguably the best front in football.
Oh, and as John McClain of the Houston Chronicle tweeted, both Polk and Blue are already hurt as well:
It just gets worse from there.
And that's why Texans general manager Rick Smith needs to get busy—now.
It's possible the Texans could explore a trade, and Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus posited one potential deal that would likely generate a huge sigh of relief in Houston:
This isn't to say Christine Michael is Foster. Just that he's better than any of Smith's other realistic options.
It's far more likely the Texans will have to look to the free-agent market, and the pile of available tailbacks is—well, it's a pile of something, all right.
|Free-Agent Running Backs|
|Player||2014 Team||2014 RY||2014 YPC||Age|
|*Faces one-game suspension|
Chris Johnson—who according to NFL Network's Rand Getlin has been connected to the other NFL team in Texas hard up in the backfield—is coming off the worst season of his career. After gaining only 663 yards for the New York Jets in 2014, "CJ2K" is now "CJnoK."
Ray Rice was out of football altogether last year, awful in averaging only 3.1 yards per carry the year before and is a public-relations nightmare.
Steven Jackson looked done in each of his past two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. Ahmad Bradshaw looked good when he was on the field for the Indianapolis Colts, but he can't stay there. Ben Tate had some success as Foster's understudy in Houston but has done nothing since except wear out his welcome with no fewer than three teams.
Knowshon Moreno is coming off a serious knee injury. Shonn Greene is—well, he's Shonn Greene.
There's a reason why none of these players had a job as July turned to August.
The Texans, however, have officially crossed into "beggars can't be choosers" territory. Jason McIntyre of USA Today suggested that despite the dark cloud over him, the team's best bet might just lie with Rice:
Rice is the most intriguing name, the one who, if the Texans brought him into camp, would have the national media flocking to the scene. At 28, Rice is younger than Johnson, Bradshaw and Jackson, and he hasn't [had] an NFL carry since Dec. 29, 2013.
If the Texans make the decision to bring in Rice, everyone—from the owner to the coaches—has to be on board. Simply bringing him in for a tryout is in no way an endorsement of what he did to his then-fiancee in 2014. It's about giving him a chance to rejuvenate his career the way Mike Vick was given a second chance by the Eagles and then the Jets.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see Rice get that tryout. Or Johnson. Or literally every name I just mentioned. The Texans have no choice but to add a back with Foster out for a significant chunk of time, especially with both Polk and Blue already nursing nagging injuries of their own.
If Houston is going to have any sort of success in 2015, it has to run the ball. It's entirely possible the Texans won't be able to do that effectively with Foster out—no matter who they sign.
But it's a mortal lock they won't with what they have now.
So get to making calls, Rick. You have work to do.
Gary Davenport is an NFL analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter at @IDPSharks.