To this point in the season, I have avoided this topic. Now that we are a quarter into the season, I’m putting it out there.
Never mind Arian Foster’s huge workload – right now he doesn’t look like the same player to me. Before you freak out, get with the “spirit” of this blog entry. I’m simply stating what I see right now. I’m not saying he is a bum, or that he isn’t a great running back, or that Ben Tate should be the starter (my GOD, dummies who say that need a concussion test). I’m just saying – he does not look the same to me right NOW.
The offensive line does have some responsibility in this, of course. When you first rework the entire right side of the line, and on top of that then begin a rotation at both right guard and right tackle – yes, it’s going to cause issues.
But it’s not all on the line. The most obvious difference that I’ve noticed this year is that Arian is often getting tackled by the first guy that touches him. That almost NEVER happened in the last two years. Having watched each game this season at least twice, I can say with confidence that it is happening more in 2012. In addition to that, I’ve noticed a few times where Arian hasn’t broken arm tackles the way he typically does. That’s not like him at all.
Arian still has the superior vision, and he’s still able to turn a no-gain into a three-yard gain. The Texans haven’t been as good in short yardage, but that obviously IS almost entirely on the offensive line.
Questions about Foster’s workload are also starting to surface. You have probably heard by now that he is on pace to have the second-most carries in single-season NFL history. Gary Kubiak was asked about this in his Monday press conference. Kubiak’s response: “He can handle it, I know that… he looks fine to me… I’m not too concerned at this point.”
Historically, RBs who have huge workloads around what Arian is on target for aren’t exactly guys who stick around and play at a high level for a long time. Could Foster be different? Sure he could, but if you just invested a ton of money in a player for the long haul, AND you have a backup who could start for several teams in the NFL – what’s the point in running him into the ground? Partially, the answer is – as much as people still don’t see it – Foster is still significantly better than Tate right now. His vision, his decisions, his pass-catching, his blocking, etc. He’s just better. But with a back behind him as excellent as Tate can be, I don’t see the hurt in giving Tate all of the garbage time carries, and more of the carries that matter during the course of the game. I’m not asking for a 1A and 1B situation here, but more like say, a three to one split.
Through four games, Tate is getting about 21% of Houston’s rush attempts. That number of course is skewed by the one anomaly, the game in Jacksonville where Tate handled 12 of the 28 attempts. So roughly, for every carry Foster gets, Tate gets four. That simply baffles me. I don’t know how else to put it. I suppose the win over the Titans could have something to do with Tate’s toe injury, or his fumble against the Broncos… but Tate wasn’t even getting garbage time carries against the Dolphins in game one.
So again, I don’t think I’m overreacting or throwing anything crazy out there. You won’t find a bigger Arian Foster fan than me. I’m all about the guy… but I also call it like I see it, and right now I’m seeing a guy who is still excellent and very effective – but not quite yet the guy we are used to seeing. I’m hoping the better the blocking gets, and the more the season wears on – we see the “old Arian” who rips off big plays (with the help of a great offensive line) and makes single-tacklers look silly.