Two games into the 2013 season, the Texans appeared to be on their way to another playoff contending season. Houston had been on a positive progression over the previous two seasons, having made the playoffs for the first two times in franchise history. They were dusted in Week three by the Ravens, but everything looked good late in the fourth quarter in Week four when the Texans had a 20-13 lead over the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Matt Schaub threw his sixth INT in four games, which led to a 58-yard game-tying TD by Richard Sherman and a Seattle victory in overtime. Houston couldn’t win a close game due to poor quarterback play and a fading defense. They lost their last 14 games of the season, which led to them earning the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. Their offense scored 140 points less than the previous season, while their defense allowed 97 more points. The Texans fired their coaching staff and brought in Bill O’Brien to take over as head coach. He worked in the New England Patriots system for five seasons at various positions, including offensive coordinator. In 2012, he took over the head coaching job at Penn State during the most troubling times with Joe Paterno passing away and his legacy being crushed by his ties to Jerry Sandusky. O’Brien was able to win eight games at Penn State in 2012, which led to him being voted Big Ten Coach of the year. This year O’Brien will also be the offensive coordinator who will be in charge of calling all plays during games. Romeo Crennel will take over as the defensive coordinator. He has been a defensive coordinator for three NFL teams – New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, and Kansas City Chiefs. Crennel has also had two failed attempts at head-coaching jobs (28-55). The Texans fell to 20th in the league in rushing yards while only scoring 7 rushing TD’s. They were NFL average in passing yards (3,813), but their QB’s only threw 19 TD’s with 22 INT’s. Houston’s rushing defense fell to 23rd in the league (122.4 YPG). Their pass defense finished third in the NFL in passing yards allowed (3,123). The Texans had a league low 7 INT’s with only 32 sacks.
Arian Foster – The life expectancy of a starting running back in the NFL is less than five years. When a player starts to develop an injury resume, it is very difficult to trust him. Foster has had three very good seasons during his NFL career, but he had the most success in 2010 when he gained 2,222 combined yards with 18 TD’s. Last year, he played pretty well during his first seven games (725 total yards), but the demise of the Texans offense led to only 2 TD’s. He suffered a back injury in November that required surgery. The reports in the offseason have been very good and he has been able to participate in Houston’s pre-minicamp workouts. He is an upside runner with very good pass catching ability. Overall, the Texans offensive line should be improved, which gives him some upside if he is able to stay healthy this season. Prior to last season, Arian averaged 24.8 touches a game in his previous 45 starts. He clearly has a top five opportunity when he is on the field. The change in coaching staff and the questionable quarterback play should lead to plenty of rushing attempts by Houston in 2014. Foster is a player to watch due to his high upside, but he does have some downside risk due to his injury history.
Andre Brown - Brown has an extremely short NFL resume for a running back that will enter this season at age 27. Last year, he suffered a broken bone in his left leg, which led to him missing the first eight games of the season. When he returned, he immediately took over the starting running back job for the Giants. He rushed the ball 30 times for 115 yards with 2 TD’s in his first game against the Raiders. In Week 11, he had the best game of his NFL career when he rushed for 127 yards on 21 carries. After that point of the season, Andre only averaged 14 carries per game. For the year, he averaged 3.54 yards per rush with low value in the passing attack (20/115 and 3 TD’s – 5.2 YPC). He flashed more upside in 2012 as a goal line threat (8 TD’s in 11 games). Brown averaged 5.3 yards per carry in limited playing time in 2012. The Giants had one of the worst rushing offenses in the league, so the change to the Texans should be a plus. He has limited upside, which probably makes him more of a short-term cover for Foster than a long-term solution. His touches will be minimal in most weeks with Foster in the starting lineup.
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